Director: Colin Trevorrow
Writer: Derek Connolly
Stars: Mark Duplass, Aubrey Plaza, Jake Johnson, Karan Soni
Motion picture rating: R
Runtime: 86 minutes
Mumblecore actor Mark Duplass is back with another smart little indie film backed by some of the makers of Little Miss Sunshine. Duplass comes from Your Sister’s Sister whilst the Sunshine folks arrive via Ruby Sparks. These films are primarily character studies that deal with dysfunctional families and that portray the vagaries of millennial love. They can be heavy on the quirkiness, and Ruby Sparks is definitely in that camp, but mostly they are warm, fun, literate and entertaining.
Duplass here plays lone amateur engineer and sci-fi nerd Kenneth. He lives a few hours from Seattle and is completing the finishing touches to his time travel machine. He needs a partner and searches via a small newspaper ad; “…bring your own weapons…safety not guaranteed…I have only done this once before.” The ad catches the eye of Jeff (Jake Johnson), a journalist with a Seattle-based magazine. He drives out to find and interview the clearly demented time traveller and takes with him two interns (Aubrey Plaza as Darius and Karan Soni as Arnau).
Jeff fails to ingratiate himself with Kenneth, but that’s OK because Jeff has an extra agenda in connecting with ex-High School sweetheart Liz. Whilst he is off trying to relive his glory days it is Darius that engages loner Kenneth and she becomes his partner for the great journey ahead. Young Arnau watches with amusement, but he only took the internship to bolster his CV so he’s non-committal about the magazine and the story. The three magazine staffers make a fun miss-matched team just as Darius and Kenneth make an odd, but compelling couple.
This is an unapologetically sweet and sincere film about people wishing they could travel back to relive better times. Most of the characters have reasons to be intrigued by the concept of time travel. That they are in their late ‘20’s or early ‘30’s did not put me off the film, but might be hard for some viewers to swallow. Kenneth, Darius and Jeff are disenfranchised and drifting, but they don’t wallow in that. They are snarky, but not self-absorbed. And the dialogue is very funny at times.
The stand-out performance comes from Aubrey Plaza as Darius. She should become very hot property after this, but we shall see. Seemingly doing very little, she steals the film and is a magnetic screen presence. Johnson and Duplass are good and no doubt they had fun on set as the whole cast really commits to what is a rom-com and sci-fi hybrid. As such it is hard to pigeon hole, but it is all the better for it. I thoroughly enjoyed this and recommend it highly.