By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood August 9, 2013 at 11:59AM
The first reviews have arrived for "About Time," directed by Richard Curtis ("Love Actually," writer of "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and a Funeral"). While critics aren't finding much of originality or zing in the time-traveling romantic comedy starring Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson, they cede that the film is as comforting and reassuring as a) rice pudding (per Variety), b) a quilt (per the Telegraph), and c) "a big sloppy hug from a stranger" (per the Times). More below.
Briefly, "About Time" centers on bumbling Brit Tim (Gleeson), who's informed by his father (Bill Nighy) that the men in his family can travel backward and forward through the years, if given a dark space and appropriate amounts of concentration time. When Tim falls in love with Mary (McAdams), he starts using his powers to re-do things, like the first time the couple had sex. Needless to say, things go a bit berserk.
The film doesn't hit theaters stateside until November 8. Watch the trailer here.
As sweet, familiar and reassuringly bland as rice pudding, Richard Curtis’ “About Time” evokes a sense of deja vu, not least for anyone who’s seen “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” a conceptually similar love story that also co-starred Rachel McAdams. After the misadventure of “Pirate Radio,” Curtis returns to roost in the well-heeled, quintessentially English milieu that made him famous internationally as a scribe with “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” “Notting Hill,” and his directorial debut, “Love, Actually.” Still, the emphasis on fresh faces instead of Working Title’s usual thesping suspects adds some zing.
56-year-old comedy veteran [Richard Curtis] describes his third writer-director project as his most personal to date, but it still ticks plenty of familiar boxes. Emotionally repressed upper-class Brits? Check. Well-heeled West London milieu? Check? Anglo-American boy-girl romance? Gently whimsical tone? Syrupy musical score? Wedding? Funeral? Check, check, check.
The chief digressions here from the director’s established formula are a light twist of science fiction, and a lot more somber reflection on the value of love and family. This time, Curtis seems to be reaching for the philosophical depth and emotional clout of bittersweet magic-realist classics such as Groundhog Day or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. He falls short of both, but his ambition is still admirable.
About Time is itself a film less directed than quilted: it’s a feathery old patchwork under which you might snuggle at the end of a tiring week. ..
But you don’t go to Curtis for polished storytelling and intellectual rigour. You go to him for films to nestle in, where you can spend two hours dreaming that you live in a house as elegantly rumpled as the Lake family’s Cornish retreat, quilts and all, and spend your evenings skipping through west London in fancy dress, and pass long and lazy summers drinking tea on the beach and playing ping pong in the garage with Bill Nighy.
It’s great to be challenged and needled and stung by cinema, but watching a film needn’t always be a battle; Time is on your side.
As far as we know, Richard Curtis cannot travel through time. But the kingpin of the Britcom can get a huge movie off the ground. And, along with the possible, Curtis has managed to achieve the impossible. Specifically: he has gone back to 1993 and remade Groundhog Day with a ginger Hugh Grant.
Curtis's heart is in the right place. In fact, it's all over the place – front and centre and backlighting the whole thing with a benevolent glow.
Whatever its flaws, About Time is the kind of relentlessly upbeat film that everyone, even the greatest of cynics, needs a dose of now and again.
The new film from Richard Curtis, this celebration of family is like a big, sloppy hug from a stranger. And like most unsolicited hugs, it’s well-meaning but not entirely welcome.
The milieu of the film, which premiered last night as the opening of the Film4 Summer Screen season at Somerset House, is typical Curtis: the engaging, if occasionally gauche, upper-middle class, blessed with unfeasibly nice real estate and a knack for posh swearing.