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'About Time' Review: In a Wide Sea of Eyes, I See One Pair That I Recognize

By Dustin Rowles | Film Reviews | November 8, 2013 | Comments ()


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Like half the world who got married in the mid-2000s, my wedding song was Ben Folds’ “The Luckiest.” I came about it honestly. I’d been a hardcore Ben Folds fan since “Underground” was released in ‘95, and if it weren’t “The Luckiest,” another Ben Folds song probably would’ve been used as our wedding song. I mention this because “The Luckiest” is the centerpiece song for Richard Curtis’ latest, About Time, and the movie is basically a cinematic interpretation of that song mixed with some time travel, which is not used as a sci-fi gimmick so much as it is used as a way to fully express the thematic crux of that piece of music. Basically, the entire movie felt as though it was an episode idea Curtis came up with for Doctor Who while he was listening to Ben Folds, and he turned it into a feature film, a feature film that will elicit the best cry you’ve had in years.

I don’t think I’ve listened to “The Luckiest,” since my wedding day, eight years ago. There’s too much vulnerability to that song, and once you’re married, and you own a house, and you have a career, and kids, and dishes and laundry, and there’s never any time for vulnerability. We’re too cool to be vulnerable, and Richard Curtis is definitely not for te cool. That’s not to say that I’m not completely smitten with Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate, whose name is Molly, by the way. I am completely fucking madly, embarrassingly enamored with her, but because I’m a dope, it’s not something I betray too often, except after I’ve had too much to drink or after I’ve seen an intoxicating movie. About Time is as intoxicating a movie as I’ve ever seen.

For various scheduling purposes, I had to watch the movie in a city two hours south of where I live, and when the credits rolled on About Time, it felt like my wife was 10,000 miles away as I texted her through tears in movie theater lobby in the middle of fucking nowhere, Massachusetts. That’s the kind of movie About Time is. The kind that will reduce you to a simpering mess in a movie theater lobby while you’re trying to talk to your wife and avoid the teenagers streaming out of Thor: The Dark World. It’s a movie that will beseech you to better appreciate the time you have with your loved ones, at least until the movie magic wears off and you’re racing to get breakfast finished for your kids so that you can meet that work deadline and get back home in time to make dinner. Even still, About Time will linger. You’ll hug your kid before he gets onto the bus for an extra beat, or spend an extra three minutes in bed with your loved one before you climb out to face the day.

What’s it about? How are the performances? Is the cinematography good?

Does any of that matter, really? It’s not the kind of movie where that stuff counts. It’s an emotionally driven movie specifically designed to make you fall in love with your own life again. If you’re in love, whether it’s new love, honeymoon love, or the love of a couple that has been together for 50 years, it’s probably going to feel like an intensely personal movie, like it was a movie MADE SPECIFICALLY FOR YOU. You’ll love it for the same reason you love “The Luckiest,” even though it’s an unabashedly hokey, sentimental song that cool people make fun of because, gah, how predictable. But those are the best movies, the ones where we get so lost that the details become irrelevant, the ones that remind us how much we love the ones were with, an the more you love them, the more power About Love will have over you. It is not for cynics. It is not for critics. It’s not for the cool. Cerebrally, it probably wouldn’t hold up to close scrutiny. But emotionally, there are no holes in About Time; it is a semi-sonic blast of feels that that will trigger every node of happiness and ache and affection inside of you and leave you exposed and vunlerable and smiling through a puddle of tears like a goddamn mad man.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • selucius

    This was the most ridiculously sappy romantic tripe Pajiba has ever coerced me into sitting through. Dustin, I don't know what kind of sunshine was blowing through your ass the day you saw this movie, but it is not what you want it to be. This movie has no lessons to teach. It can't even hold up as decent science fiction because the time travel aspect is utter fantasy.

    Sure, given the benefit of unlimited do-overs, we could all have our Rachel McAdams's. How much of a dweeb is the main character that he has to spend his entire life deceiving this one woman into thinking she loves him? He does this repeatedly without guilt or remorse. Happily ever after, my ass. That guy is a sociopath and I guess the lesson is that we should all be lucky he is not using his powers for evil against the greater world.

  • Guest

    This is why I can't see this movie, I don't have anyone I'll walk out of the theater longing for. Thought I did, but I don't. So the tears will be out of loneliness, not longing. And that's way to sad for public consumption.

  • Bodhi

    This look super cute & I'll probably watch it one day while I'm folding laundry, but that terrible baby carrier is making my eyes twitch.

  • rachel612

    I saw an early cut of this, about a year ago - it languished in post for a very long time while the distributors and financiers tried to get Mr Curtis to tone down his preachiness.

    In the version I saw, it was incredibly preachy. Very much "I have a theory of happiness and now I'm going to foist it on you - endlessly."

    Based on discussions I've had with friends who saw that version, I think this is one of the few Curtis movies that skews better for guys than for women. Because at its heart (SPOILERS BELOW):

    How could you have a true, lasting marriage based on constant deception? How could you truly live your life if you couldn't tell your wife the one great secret of your life? Let alone all the creepy times you'd manipulated her?

    For me, this was a truly unromantic movie. The lead character is deceptive and manipulative. That he attempts to redeem himself with moments of concern for others doesn't really make up for the fact that he cons his wife to be into falling in love with him based on false pretences.

    Ask yourself whether or not Bernie Madoff was a good man: he gave a lot of money to charity, and made a lot of people happy, for a time. But he lied to everyone. The only reason everyone hates him now is because we know the truth.

    This movie is trying to make us root for the Madoff's of this world, in which everything is okay so long as the ends can be seen to justify the means. In fact, the entire premise of this movie is that the means don't matter, so long as the end is okay.

    I thought this movie was utterly reprehensible. And creepy. And yes, irredeemably preachy, which is something coming from a film about a serial deceiver.

    But as I say, I saw an early cut. Maybe it got better. I do know that they ran extensive audience tests, in several countries, to try to get it into shape.

  • Sarah Weissman

    Yea, I'm a sap, but I feel like I'd be too judgmental of the male lead Ie Carrey's character in Phillip Morris, Maybe I'd get pissed that he has a happy woman who he deceived...

  • Jifaner

    I want to see this so badly but now I'm afraid to watch it in the presence of others.

  • So what you're saying is, it's way better than the trailer led me to believe?
    Because good Christ, that trailer makes my cynical morbidity rise up something fierce, I just can't with this type of film.

  • Irina

    So this is the movie The Time Traveler's Wife wasn't. Good thing Rachel McAdams got it right the second time around.

  • sailboat

    Rowles, I think you're getting soft in your old age. Or did you just pull an elaborate scam to get laid? I mean, she's your wife, dude. Either way, that's kind of sweet, I guess, you teddy bear shaped vagina. Can we cynics get Prisco's take on this movie? Hopefully a drunk perspective.

    jk, i love you

  • tarqueeny

    This film was utterly mediocre. The writer here must be feeling emotional to write so positively about it.

  • alacrify

    I'm really glad this spoke to you so strongly. You might consider having someone write reviews who aren't SO strongly affected by it. "Reporting" and "reviewing" does require some distancing. Some of us lost our loves (mine to cancer, over 20 years ago) and you destroyed me with your review. Flame on if you like, but you just hit people over the head with your emotion, instead of reviewing the movie. And from my loss, Dustin FUCK YOU FOR MAKING IT PERSONAL.I know it's my problem. I'll leave.

  • Jasper Peng

    I am patting myself on the back for putting Domnhall Gleeson on my Freebie Five this year. *pat pat pat*

  • Wrestling Fan

    *sigh*

    forever alone....

  • I love this review.

    My husband and I both love "The Luckiest." We also love Richard Curtis's movies, so this is definitely a date night waiting to happen. I'm sure we'll bawl our eyes out together, too.

  • Carrie

    I think I'm too cynical and British for that song. I had to stop halfway through. Too cringey. Also, barely in tune. I'm sure he can sing better than that.

    I'll go now.

  • Carrie

    I really enjoyed this one. I'm kind of a sucker for anything Rachel McAdams is in anyway (I watched The Vow. I probably shouldn't admit that, but I did) but thankfully this film was lovely. I mean, it's very Richard Curtis and I kept imagining Hugh Grant doing the voice over, because it was so similar in tone and subject, but that didn't matter too much. I don't think it made me cry, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

  • Parsnip

    Not a fan of Richard Curtis, well his movies that is. I find his depictions of love idealistic and unbelievable. Went to see Four Weddings when it came out (to rave reviews) and thought, despite moments of charm, it was ridiculous. Then, I saw Nottinghill (again because of rave reviews) and that sealed the deal that his movies are not for me. Give me something like Ruby Sparks.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    I find it interesting that Ben Folds writes romantic songs about long lasting love, but I'm pretty sure he's recently separated from his fourth wife, and is moving on to a fifth (though I think he said he doesn't plan to get legally married).

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    I figure the intensity that actually makes the songs turn out good is the same thing that no one can keep up indefinitely, so when the relationship no longer lives up to the music-- bail.

    Or he's just a horny bastard. Whatevs.

  • KatSings

    My husband and I sang that song at our wedding during the unity candle segment. Now I'm nervous what this movie would do to my tear ducts.

  • Salad_Is_Murder

    For the first dance at my wedding we played "Hello, It's Me" by the Runt.

  • mswas

    MrWas and I wanted to dance to She's no Lady She's my Wife, but I was worried family would have been offended. I wish we had. http://youtu.be/4o3m1FwhusY

  • BWeaves

    What? I thought it was sweet. I thought what Dustin said up there was really sweet.

    Dustin, I apologize. My little joke was not so funny.

  • Maguita NYC

    Nah, he's just a man in love and appreciative of his wife. Hope for you to find the same in your life BWeaves.

  • mairimba

    You sure are a miserable person, aren't you?

  • Jamie Dello Stritto

    Seriously. Just shut up.

  • InternetMagpie

    Shut up.

  • SVR

    OF COURSE Mrs. Pajiba-hyphenate is named Molly. OF COURSE she is. It's the perfect combination of old school adorable and 80's pop culture. I'm totally imagining you guys as a real life Duckie* and Andie who after high school got together and became grown up wonderful human beings with awesomely witty toddlers and perfectly appropriate quirky wardrobes.

    *Don't you ever tell me Andie really belonged with Blane. Never.

  • pajiba

    The amusing irony in this is that Molly had hippie back-to-lander parents, and grew up without electricity or indoor plumbing, so she completely missed out on 80's pop culture. In fact, I introduced her to The Breakfast Club in, like, 2002 (and I doubt she's even seen Pretty in Pink yet). But they are awesomely witty toddlers.

  • mairimba

    And now I need a video of Dustin lip syncing and shaking it to some Otis.

  • BettyNugs

    Otis' "That's how strong my love is" was our wedding song.

  • Tinkerville

    I wonder if this will resonate as heavily for those of us who haven't experienced those things yet. I'm looking forward to checking this out, though based on the trailers I'll probably be weeping mess even despite my lack of husband and kids.

  • zyzzyva

    I've not yet had kids, but have been with The Boyfriend for aeons and adored this movie (though I tend to love some of Richard Curtis' stuff, mainly Blackadder and Love, Actually).

    Yet I'd say, in all, it was just as much, if not more so, a story about the powerful relationship between a father and son. Further, the end emphasis is on enjoying life and its moments.

  • Jae

    No kids, no husband, not a single hint from both the Universe and my own brain/heart/gut/whatever that all this is necessarily going to happen for me, and... Lt's say, the contrast between my reaction to this movie and several other opinions (including Dustin's) made me conclude that I am indeed dead inside.

  • bastich

    They should have just named this movie "Single People Suck".

  • emmalita

    I have to admit, as a happily single person, I feel no need to race out to see this movie. It'll be on Netflix streaming soon enough. :)

  • Marc Greene

    Any chance Rachel McAdams can fall in love with someone not untethered in time? Or just lean into that shit and petition to be the next Time Lord's companion.

  • naivehelga

    I have never heard this song until this very minute - and while I suppose it's a Pajiba cliche at this point, I'm crying at my desk. DAMMIT, Dustin.

  • tamatha_uhmelmahaye

    I'm so glad you liked this movie! I was going to be heartbroken if it wasn't well-received. I would probably still have seen it, because this type of movie is like catnip for me (or crack, I'm not sure), but I'm really happy to hear that it's good.

  • dilwazr

    Ha! My brother got married in 2005 and his first dance was to "The Luckiest."

  • Wōđanaz Óðinn
  • Maguita NYC

    The ending just made me laugh out loud!

  • emmalita

    *Whispers* i hate richard curtis' films.

  • Michelle

    Gahhh, I want to see this, but DON'T WANT to. DAMNIT, LIFE.

  • Amanda

    As a hater of Love Actually, I too feel conflicted. This lead guy looks utterly charming though and I'm always on Team Nighy.

  • Lindsey Gregory

    I am personally OVER Rachel McAdams playing the girlfriend or wife, especially after watching 'To the Wonder,' which bored me to literal tears.

  • AvaLehra

    I love Terrence Malick SO MUCH but haaaaaated "To The Wonder" SO MUCH! Grrr! In our house, that movie is known as "Ukrainian Lady Twirling."

  • Naye

    Yea I was like isnt this the same person she was in her last six movies?

  • Joe Grunenwald

    My brother destroyed "The Luckiest" for me by singing it as Kermit the Frog. IT JUST WORKS.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I destroyed "Head like a Hole" by Nine Inch Nails for a boyfriend by singing it as Ethel Merman. Does that count?

  • I saw this last weekend and LOVED it. It has what we've come to expect from a Richard Curtis film: wit, charm, and just the right amount of cheese. Plus, Bill Nighy being the best.

  • What’s it about? How are the performances? Is the cinematography good?

    Does any of that matter, really?

    Um, yes. In a movie review it does actually.

  • Yocean

    What Dustin implies is that the performance and cinematography did it's best job, which is to bring the story to it's fullest potency that those elements are invisible. Read between the lines.

  • Maguita NYC

    Damn it Dustin! There's something in my eyes.

    Also, Molly is one lucky gal. You remind me of my father who loved my mother blind crazy until the day he died. Which would be 3 years ago, this coming Sunday. Here's to love and all the impossible wonderous things it brings into everyone's lives.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    So what you're saying is you found your The Notebook.

    I've got nothing against sentimentality; I'm a giant sentimental fool. But the best movies, the ones where we get so lost that the details become irrelevant only happens when things like the acting and directing are good. So it sounds like this one is a well-crafted piece.

  • goraudykq688

    my Aunty Alyssa recently got a nice 6 month old Toyota Tacoma only from working parttime off a laptop... recommended you read

    w­w­w.j­o­b­s­6­1.c­o­m

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    True love, bitches. Aunty Alyssa and that underage Tacoma are just waiting for the establishment to recognize the reality of their love.

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