Time-travel element gives rom-com a shot in the arm
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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/04/2020 (979 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
James vs. His Future Self is, as the title implies, a time-travel movie with a healthy sense of its own comic implications.
Here, time travel is fundamentally a device to facilitate a romance. So it’s best not to go into it with a nerdly attention to whether it meets criteria for avoiding or cheating on the flaws/paradoxes/impossibilities inherent in time travel.
It’s not that kind of movie. Essentially, it’s a romantic comedy with the finer points of time travel theory safely parked on its outer periphery.
Jonas Chernick, a Winnipeg-born actor-writer (Inertia, My Awkward Sexual Adventure) is very much within his wheelhouse — nervous, smart, socially awkward — as James, a theoretical physicist whose obsession with time travel is the result of a long-ago family tragedy he dearly wants to correct. Ironically, that obsession has put him at a distance from his own sister, Meredith (Tommie-Amber Pirie), as well as placing him firmly in the friend zone of Courtney (Cleopatra Coleman), the fellow scientist for whom he carries a furtive torch.
For James, things are coming to a head. Meredith is running out of patience. Courtney is about to get an offer to work on the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland. And James’s boss, Dr. Rowley (Frances Conroy, in a nice eccentric turn), is about to announce a promotion for her most promising protegé.
Into this delicate situation charges “Jimmy” (Daniel Stern), a wild, bearded older dude who briefly kidnaps James with a wild story about how he is himself James, come from the future to rescue his younger self from an empty, loveless existence.
In fact, Jimmy’s story checks out, through a decidedly unconventional proof. Jimmy does his best to convince his younger self to abandon his life’s work. But James, knowing the experiment is destined to succeed, becomes all the more adamant about taking it further.
The film has an interesting message about living for the moment that distinguishes it from most other time-travel movies. It’s delivered by Jimmy in a couple of lovely scenes, one of which involves a croissant.
The delivery system proves sound. Stern has never been conventional leading-man material, but he is a powerful presence in his later years. He brings a delightful unpredictability into one of the more predictable genres, and the movie’s principal pleasure is watching him cut loose. Yet he is movingly tender at times, as when he has a conversation with Courtney and can barely suppress the love he’s longed to express for decades.
Director Jeremy LaLonde, who also co-scripted with Chernick, veers towards a ribald sense of humour (his other credit with Chernick is titled How To Plan an Orgy in a Small Town). But he’s stylistically conservative, failing from behind the camera to match Stern’s wild-card energy in front of it.
Still, the film is a blessed novelty, both as a rom-com and as a time-travel story. Let’s face it, we’ve seen a few too many Terminator chapters to expect something this fresh.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.