Rachel McAdams. Richard Curtis. How do you go wrong? The man behind some of the greatest romantic comedies in the past 20 years (Love Actually, Notting Hill, Four Weddings And A Funeral, Bridget Jones’ Diary) and the woman who rivals Sandra Bullock and Julia Roberts with her big screen charm. Well, About Time actually ends up being Curtis’ weakest effort despite some charming moments.
One of the biggest issues with About Time is that it’s not really about McAdams’ character. It’s about Tim, played by Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson. Tim is an unlikely in love young man, who loves his quirky family. When he turns 21, his father (Bill Nighy) reveals the family secret that the men in the family can travel back in time. They simply have to go into a dark room, clinch their fists, think of the moment they want to go to, and they are transported there. They can’t travel into the future, nor can they travel to a moment that they weren’t originally part of (the film has trouble sticking to this “rule”).
So Tim starts to use it to correct bumbling moments where he says the wrong thing or looks like a fool in front of a girl. Don’t worry, this isn’t Richard Curtis going “sci-fi”. This is still very much a Curtis romantic comedy, but with a gimmick thrown in to have fun with.
He eventually meets Mary (McAdams), and because of the time travel, we get to have several “meet-cute” moments between Tim and Mary. Something that McAdams is ever so good at it. In parts, it just feels like this movie was created for the simple pleasure of watching McAdams get to be all cute and charming on a first date over and over again. The film creates a plot hole in its first stumble in the Tim and Mary relationship. After they meet, Tim travels back in time to help a friend out, but it ends up erasing his meeting with Mary. He tries to travel back and meet her again at the restaurant, but he doesn’t go back to the same point again but instead goes back to after she’s already left the restaurant. Why? I don’t know. Why doesn’t he try again? I don’t know.
But he eventually does figure it out, and we get to see their relationship flourish, but the film eventually focuses more on the relationship between Tim and his father. The film ends up having a nice message at the end and will make you feel all warm and fuzzy just like that classic ending in Love Actually at the airport, but you can’t help but wish the film gave you something more.
Gleeson is serviceable in the new role, but it’s such a waste to not put McAdams to better use. It would have been more interesting to switch the roles and have McAdams play the role where she travels through time. I’m actually not sure why Curtis didn’t write it like that. She’s no stranger to time travel movies (Midnight In Paris, The Time Traveler’s Wife), but she’s never the one that time travels. This role in About Time doesn’t require much of McAdams, other than be charming, so it’s time she challenge herself a bit more.
That’s exactly what you can say about About Time. It’s charming, but doesn’t amount much more than that.