Monday, March 05, 2012

In Time

I picked up the movie In Time at the Redbox yesterday; I remember seeing a preview at some point, but seem to have missed it in theaters. Some thoughts:

* This movie was bubblegum, but it was much, much better than I expected. And a lot of it was just that it did what so many Hollywood movies don't do these days: it took an interesting idea, stuck with it, and didn't ruin it. The writing does a lot here, I think; it doesn't go crazy, and it Chekhovs things fairly nicely, so that, for instance, you can look back and see that the whole trouble started when the mother gave her son thirty minutes for lunch (time is the currency). Dialogue is here and there heavy-handed, but nothing unbearable.

And they play the Bonnie and Clyde thing quite well.

* Timberlake is the weakest member of the cast here, but he actually does very nicely. If he has to do really intense emotion in a single scene, he's a bit shaky, but give him a stretch of time and he can really nail a mood. Also, he's good at conveying the ambiguities of this character, who has both a generous heart and a ruthless will, and does it well enough that it's not Justin Timberlake: The Movie. You actually see the character.

* It turns out that a world in which almost everyone is in their mid-twenties is remarkably creepy. Having so many people look roughly the same age is unsettling, even when not getting into the weird-looking interactions among people.

Also, it turns out, surprisingly, that mid-twenties-ish is really not the best age to stop aging at, even if you are a Pretty Young Thing. Here you have a cast just brimming with Pretty Young Things, and having so many of them together really brings out how not-yet-mature most people look at that age. One Pretty Young Thing in mid-twenties may be beautiful; a whole crowd of them is a collection of people who may have good skin but who haven't completely outgrown all their teenagerish awkwardness.

Also, very unsurprisingly, Hollywood's idea of what everyone would look like if our aging stopped at twenty-five is not really what people would like if our aging stopped at twenty-five. (The lead actress, Amanda Seyfried, is the only major actor in the entire movie who is actually twenty-five.) And I think back to what I would look like if I, with my boyish face and slight frame, had stopped aging at twenty-five, and, holy moly, I really don't know how I could live looking like an awkward seventeen-year-old for the rest of my life.

* For a movie full of Pretty Young Things, it was remarkably restrained. There is no sex. There is one glimpse-here-glimpse-there nude bathing scene, and one lead-actress-in-her-underwear scene. (Interestingly, the nude bathing scene was not gratuitous, since it fit the story at that stage perfectly, while the underwear scene was absurdly gratuitous.) There's some swearing but not much. There's violence and some gore, but it's not front and center. There are some pretty special effects, but most of them are background, and the special effect that is really effective, and done quite well, is just the countdown clock on the arm. All this goes along with not ruining it.

* I think they were a little sloppy with the math on occasion. But it doesn't kill the story, really, because the precise numbers are not for the most part a big issue.

* The movie did very poorly with critics; but none of the negative reviews I've seen have actually made much sense. The biggest complaint was that it devolved into a chase film, which is odd because it's not a chase film but a Robin-Hood film. The actual amount of chasing is quite limited, and is mostly to underscore the fact the never-stop character of the Timekeeper and to give a sense of being on the run. One review complained that it didn't do much with the interesting moral quandaries raised, but there were no moral quandaries raised -- this is a morally stark movie, involving a radical injustice, no quandary about it.

One thing I did think they could have done better with, and perhaps this gets into something like moral quandary territory, is the fact that what Will and Sylvia are doing really will cause a massive breakdown in everything, anarchy and bloody revolution; this needed to be recognized (by more than the villains), in order to underscore the point that it is worth it even so.

As a movie, I wouldn't call it stunning, but it's quite watchable.

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