Setter’s ‘Spectives: A Failing Grade for ‘At Middleton’

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613I want to tell you something about the movie At Middleton.

IT WAS HORRIBLE!!!!!!!!!! UGH!!!!!!!!!

OK, now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s proceed to why this rom-com was so wretched. It had some talent in front of the camera, including Andy Garcia and Vera Farmiga as parents visiting a college with their kids and finding romance in the process. Unfortunately, the script was dreadful, creating a host of unbelievable situations in the name of character development, including a completely unrealistic scene in which the duo crashes a campus acting class and provides a clinic in method theory.

Can you say, “Ludicrous?” I can.

Another problem: Many sequences went on for far too long, with the effect that they became tedious. The conversations between the two parents were so uninteresting that they didn’t foster any definition; instead, they removed it. What we, as viewers, were left with were skeletons of characters speaking poor dialogue and becoming more and more insufferable as the film went on.

Oh, and I really dislike forced quirkiness, which was broadcast through Farmiga’s free-spirit mom. Yuck.

Much of the blame for this nonsense could be put on the direction by Adam Rodgers, who co-wrote the film, too. But the script’s issues were really insurmountable. If only it were better paced. If only the characters were credible. If only … if only …

Can I watch something good now?

Setter’s ‘Spectives: Stop All the Clocks—’About Time’ Lags Behind

Setter Drawing for Blog 082613Time-travel movies are risky. Repeated situations and scenes can go nowhere unless they’re tweaked enough to convey something new. And you need an urgency informing the proceedings; if you’re going on a temporal journey of any length with a character—main or otherwise—it’s got to matter.

Richard Curtis’ latest flick About Time misses on all of those fronts.

The story of Tim, a young man (played by Domhnall Gleeson) who uses his ability to travel backward in time to foster romantic adventures and generally change things for the better in his life, this insufferably dull, mawkish film makes Rashomon look cursory in its depiction of the same story told in various ways. Yet temporal adjustments can’t explain the duration of a scene in which Tim’s wife (Rachel McAdams) asks for his opinion on an endless stream of outfits, nor can it shed light on the woefully underwritten characters peppering the film in an attempt to infuse it with charm and humor. (Tim’s obnoxiously free-spirited sister Kit Kat and bitter playwright landlord are two such examples, providing full servings of eccentricity without definition or context.)

The fact is, the movie lags. I didn’t care about the protagonists. And despite the addition of some by-the-book weeper ingredients—a devastating illness for Tim’s father (Bill Nighy) and alcoholism for his sister—the picture comes off as disingenuous, with manipulation being the takeaway. That it’s derivative is a lesser issue, though films such as Run Lola Run and Groundhog Day, which used the same idea more judiciously, can’t be blamed for AT‘s faults. This movie made all its miscues on its own.

Curtis, who wrote Four Weddings and a Funeral, has done sparkling work before, and every director produces a dud once in a while. But flicks such as About Time get me worried about the cinema. They suggest, in my opinion, that a touch of unreality can make up for other issues—script, direction, performances and the like—yet it’s not an effective substitute. The best time-travel (or any) movies take you back with them and make you want to come along. They move quickly and economically … like time itself.

And you don’t check your watch while viewing them. About Time, sadly, waits for everyone.

Skip’s Quips: Does a Date Movie Have to Be a Rom Com?

Admit it: You’d rather spontaneously combust than watch Monster-in-Law again.

I sure would. I’d even throw in a bit of melting à la The Wizard of Oz‘s Wicked Witch of the West if that 2005 Jennifer Lopez/Jane Fonda opus could pass me by once more.

Why flicks like these are regarded as date movies I’ll never know. My theory is it’s the Meet the Fockers recipe: add some big-name stars who aren’t afraid to get embarrassed, mix in a flimsy script laden with crude jokes, fry it up alongside some uninspired direction and serve with a side of cynicism–the idea that folks will find it suitable for significant-other viewing. Because, of course, it doesn’t have any huge CGI battle scenes, orcs or parsec-swooping spaceships in it.

Frankly, I’d rather take a date to see Kagemusha. Oh, wait–I already did that.

Maybe that’s what’s really missing from our moviegoing patterns. We’re prescribed a diet of genres that purport to be appropriate for various ailments–a need for romance, a need for comedy. But isn’t it better to see a movie just because it’s really good? Is it an illusion to think that you want light comedy on a date? Perhaps you’d be better off with Alexander Nevsky…if the alternative is Fockers/in-Law.

I believe quality trumps type–that no matter what mood you’re in, a great film will make you feel better. And a bad one will make you feel worse.

Which is not to say that your date will always be a success after a viewing of Kagemusha. But you might win out on originality. Chalk that one up for the cinephiles.