Charm is a hell of a drug. Be it in real life or up on a movie screen, it can intoxicate a person right out of their senses, making the charmer in question immune from all kinds of quibbles - major or minor, animal vegetable or mineral. If that certain somebody or somebodies are lighting off sparks, we the charmed, defenseless and weak, are willing to overlook a lot whilst under their spell. Put those fireworks front and center in a romantic comedy and you're pretty well good to go...
And so it goes with Richard Curtis' new flick About Time. There's actually a sequence in this movie where the beloveds at center stage (played by Domhnall Gleeson and Rachel McAdams) are falling for each other and we're given a montage of time passing involving wacky outfit changes and god save us all subway buskers, and yet instead of reaching into my brain through my ear canal and lobotomizing myself right then and there I only rolled my eyes a little - not even a lot! That's a feat, one I must lay down in awe at the feet of our charm-riddled lovebirds. ("It's the H1N1 of romantic comedies!" = my poster blurb.) I almost always find McAdams worth watching when she tries (at last year's fest I positively luxuriated in the sight of her campily swanning around in lingerie in Brian DePalma's Passion) and here she's at her most homespun loveable, fringe and all - she knows her way around and back again with a sly knowing smirk.
But I'd be lying if I said it my scales (and the movie's, it must be said) weren't tilted ever so slightly in the favor of Gleeson - indeed I came out of this movie thinking I'd just been introduced to the world's skinniest gingeriest movie star since Julia Roberts squealed "Well color me happy there's a sofa in here for two," in thigh high pleather boots and a Carol Channing wig. Domhnall's been building up a memorable resume with everything I've seen him in, from Never Let Me Go to Anna Karenina, but here, to borrow a turn of phrase from Mama Grape, he shimmers and he glows. Total charm offensive.
He's so captivating that not only can I overlook mad-cap subway musician antics, I can very nearly tip-toe right past all kinds of questionable moral quandaries that his time-travel antics cough up, like gosh there's nothing at all creepy about relationships built on excessive one-sided manipulations (they're not really lie lies), and gosh, women don't so much need personal agency, do they, as long as somebody parrots their girly likes back at them. (A fixation on Kate Moss is a really strange fixation for a person to have though. Really very.)
Indeed the movie manages to swerve around these sorts of questions by pushing the third act's beating heart, where our expectations are set for the standard relationship implosion-to-reconciliation arc, into the body of a father-son picture instead (Bill Nighy's basically just playing Bill Nighy, or the Bill Nighy we all imagine Bill Nighy is, but I still like Bill Nighy, so I was okay with it); there's life in the fact that the movie manages to side-step our well-trod expectations, to be sure, but the movie actually kind of forgets about McAdams once she's good and won and churning out the babies. I hoped there'd be some curiosity bestowed upon her character regarding her amour's constant shuffling off into cupboards, at least? But that wasn't to be - she's set on the shelf while the film unearths its true colors, as a tear-jerking fantasy about family and memory and the passage of time, and also ping pong. Most meaningful ping pong!
Honestly though, truth be told, I was so high off what Domnhall was giving me it was only once the film was over and my love hangover set in that I began picking our personal love affair apart. And even then notsomuch. Subway buskers come and go, but Domhnall's grin is forever.
You should all make time (groan) for About Time when it plays at the festival tonight, 10/2, or 10/6. Then come tell me whether I was blinded by ginger or not.