Monday, 23 September 2013


"I just don't understand how people are not liking this film. It is just perfect!!!" So reads the first review on the IMDb site I come across. The writer is, presumably, referring to the likes of me.

I was so wanting to not see this film. I thought I'd managed it but, because there was one final cheapo showing, I swallowed my pride and went. Silly me!
What did I have against it? Richard Curtis' (screenplay & director) cloying sentimentality which, on previous form, he's most adept at portraying. And when I heard that adult men were coming out of this one with tears in their eyes that was too much. Or it ought to have been.
After the masterpiece that was 'Four Weddings' in 1994, which I've watched over and over again and which doesn't pall for me, Curtis has been taking gradual downward steps. 'Notting Hill' (1999) wasn't actually too bad. Neither was 'Bridget Jones's Diary' (2001). But 'Love Actually' (2003), though having its moments was, for me, a sign of things definitely going awry - especially in the almost unwatchable, sickly 'Liam Neeson and his son' segment. Then came 'The Boat That Rocked', an unbelievable turkey of a film which even the formidable presence of Philip Seymour Hoffman couldn't save. I rate it as one of the biggest clunkers of recent years.

'About Time' concerns a 21-year old (the only slightly charismatic Domhall Gleeson) who learns from his father (the excellent Bill Nighy) that he has the ability to travel in time within his own lifetime. Having been told of this latent talent he uses it to do nothing other than pursue the girl he's fallen for (the rather more endearing Rachel McAdams) - exactly as one would do, right?
I don't have any difficulty in accepting this preposterous, but potentially entertaining, notion within the confines of a zany comedy - or even the rom-com which this film purports to be - but the concept is handled here very leadenly with an over-earnestness exemplified in the incredibly obvious 'message' of "appreciate each moment of one's life!" I got that within the first 20 minutes, so the repetition became just tiresome.
The 'fun' of the film is to be derived in watching the young man using his newly uncovered ability to repeat experiences with his female 'conquest' but ironing out his gaucheries second time around so as to be thought more of, as well as to prevent undesirable circumstances happening to not just himself but also to other members of his family. (You'll understand why one shouldn't think too hard about this, because if you do, the idea falls to pieces.)

It's a hopelessly bloated film. At two hours long it would have been far more effective with a good half hour lopped off. In fact in what I thought were the final stages of the film Curtis keeps unnecessarily adding on scene after scene, unwilling to let go, like a dog wanting to retain possession of a ball. Oh, what an endurance test!

Despite all this, it was not entirely negative. I've already mentioned Bill Nighy who, though he always seems to be playing the same character, is never less than watchable. Likewise Lindsay Duncan as the mother, though she has no real extended scenes. Tom Hollander, now almost a 'daddy' with his slightly unkempt, grizzled beard, looks hotter than I've ever seen him before.
I ought also to mention that, in a tiny appearance, it was especially poignant to see the wonderful, sadly recently deceased, Richard Griffiths. He must have died only very shortly before this film was released. (I saw him way back in 1977 as a youngish man playing 'Bottom' in a Royal Shakespeare Company's production of 'Dream'. I never saw a more memorable or funnier one.)

IMDb's rating to date tell me that my unspectacular view of 'About Time' is clearly a minority one. But I can only report how I felt, and which is why I now give it an appropriately humble rating of..............3.5.


  1. I just knew this was going to be tosh
    Thanks for the heads up
    Curtis is an acquired taste
    Although I kind of liked nottinghill

  2. I totally agree with you about the Liam Neeson and son segment in "Love Actually" which turned me against the movie. I have a feeling if I saw this one, I'd come out of the theater feeling like you.

    Can you shed some light on the Griffiths remark "playing MND's Bottom" - have to admit I'm lost on this one. When I think of Griffith's, I think of Hector and the subjunctive.

  3. I am not fond of bloating, so I will pass on this one.

  4. J.G. - I've acquired a Curtis allergy over the years and it's hard to believe that the same man wrote the magnificent '4 Weddings' (or maybe you're not such a fan?). If it hadn't been for that I may have thought less of 'Notting Hill'. Both films, incidentally, though great ensemble pieces are, for me, really carried by Hugh Grant. whom I always find a compelling presence. But 'About Time' being 'tosh'? - yes, that word is apposite.

    Paul, I shouldn't have made the assumption re 'Bottom'. I've now clarified it in the text above. (Yes, I get your reference to 'Hector'.)

    Dr Spo - I agree, Once a message has been delivered, don't keep hammering it home!

  5. It's a strange thing, but when I see "starring Bill Nighy" tends to put me off any film. I agree that he plays the same dull part in EVERY film and I just dont understand why he is selected to actor in any film.

    That said, I'll probably watch this at some point...

  6. If and when you do see it, Stephen, I'm pretty confident in saying that it might be improved with a beer or two or a few glasses of vino.