film reel image

film reel image

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Somewhere in Time 1980 * * 1/2 Stars

The picture above is the movie poster for Somewhere in Time 
Director: Jeannot Szwarc
Year: 1980
Rating: * * 1/2 stars
Rating: PG
Cast: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour, Christopher Plummer 

Somewhere in Time is a movie that I somewhat embraced as a kid. I was intrigued by the whole concept of time travel (the gist of what's on screen). Also, it was unique in that it was filmed almost entirely on Mackinac Island (I grew up in Michigan so go figure). However, after a recent viewing (almost 30 years later) and a need for random nostalgia, I found the film to be a well intentioned but borderline misfire.  

"Time" tells the story of playwright Richard Collier (Christopher Reeve). He is mysteriously visited by an elderly woman while doing a play as a college student somewhere in Northern Michigan. Fast forward 8 years later and he is living in Chicago. He's still a playwright but has a serious case of writer's block and out of nowhere, decides to visit the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. A sense of Déjà vu kicks in and Collier realizes that the woman he met 8 years ago was a famous actress from the year 1912 (Elise McKenna, played with restraint by Jane Seymour). She in fact did a play on the Island so he decides to go back in time to see her. After Reeve's character successfully realizes that he has mastered the art of time travel (he dresses up like someone from 1912 and puts old coins in his pocket. Oh yeah, he also lies on a bed and says over and over that he is in the year 1912), he goes to great lengths to find her and fall in love with her. This is all to the disenchantment of her overprotective and overbearing manager William Fawcett Robinson (a very young Christopher Plummer). 

If you look at "Time" in hindsight, it's the type of cinematic exercise that probably could have gone from being 1hr. 44 minute (film's running time) to maybe 2 hours and some change. It's weird saying that because if you ask most moviegoers about the length of a film, they'll probably say it's too long or drags too much. "Time" is the opposite. I'm not saying it's because it feels like scenes were literally left out on the cutting room floor. That's not the case. What I'm saying is that additional scenes could have been added to explain the general actions of the characters more. What we get from "Time" is something that was edited too tightly and got rushed out to theaters back in 1980. The ending, although terrific on paper, lasts for maybe 30 seconds. Then there's the musical score. It's hauntingly beautiful but it seems to come in at wrong points in the movie. It feels like a cheap solution to beef up dramatic momentum when it's obvious to anyone watching, that there isn't any. The film also has the mistake of giving the lead role to the late Christopher Reeve. He looks the part, he's in every frame, but it feels like he's trying way too hard. You can tell back then, that he wanted to break out of the whole type casting thing with his success in Superman (1978). Added to the miscasting of Reeve is the love story between his character and Jane Seymour's character. Besides the fact they are both involved in theatre, there is really no blatant evidence to back up the notion that these two people would actually fall in love. They spend one day together (5 or 6 scenes in the whole movie) and there is barely any conversation between the two of them. If it was lust I'd accept that. But it's annoying that we as an audience are manipulated into thinking that these two people belong together when in fact they barely know each other. Among other things, this in a nutshell, is the biggest misstep with "Time."  The biggest bright spot however, is the casting of Christopher Plummer as the antagonist. He's menacing and cold. He pretty much does the whole Robert De Niro thing by out acting everyone with his eyes. Sadly though, he doesn't command much screen time and is woefully underused.

Ultimately, Somewhere in Time is not a bad film. It's just the type of film that had the potential to be so much better. I mean it’s beautifully shot and has a great sense of time and place. But when it came to character development and a strong script, everyone involved, was "somewhere" else. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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