Friday, July 16, 2010

Stream it: Jac Schaeffer's TiMER uses sci-fi to cleverly explore love and relationships

A great idea given even better follow-through, TiMER is a rom-com that gets its kick-start from a nifty little sci-fi premise: the invention and growing popularity of a wrist band implanted on a man or woman that let its wearer know exactly when that person will encounter the "other" of his/her dreams. Two hours, four days, 10 years, whatever -- the wait may be short or long, but if that "other" is also wearing a band, you'll know that a Mr. or Ms Right is on the horizon.  If your TiMER reads blank, however, as does the one worn by our heroine, frustration sets in.

In this exceptionally smart, thoroughly-thought-out and very entertaining movie, writer/director Jac Schaeffer (shown at right) explores this new "technology" and its effect on love, relationships and behavior from so many different angles that the results are consistently bracing.  The movie is never less than a highly enjoyable rom-com, yet at the same time, it's forcing you to consider what things like love and commitment will signify in this "new" society.  What might the ability to immediately learn an answer that usually takes months, years, or an eternity to uncover mean to the concept of "dating," not to mention that of fidelity?

And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Ms Schaeffer's intriguing concept (shown above) makes the usual romance, including the typical scenes of necking and lovemaking (below) layered -- fraught, really -- with a lot of extra (and extremely interesting) baggage.  The filmmaker adds irony, humor, charm, and sadness to situations that, in any other rom-com, would be cliché.  Here, almost everything resonates.

As a first-time director, Schaeffer probably has a lot more to learn, yet she's done a perfectly good job of putting all this together (ever her one little dream/fantasy sequence is presented creatively and thoughtfully).  She's drawn excellent performances from her entire cast, too: no small achievement for a first-timer (first-TiMER?). As a writer, she's already quite good, with dialog that makes its many problematic points believably and with plenty of humor and zing. Overall, Schaeffer combines her dialog with the acting skill of her performers, drawing consistently real behavior from her cast.  (This is not that simple an accomplishment.)

Best of all the filmmaker puts her sci-fi notion to work on society as we know it, showing us how this little device might effect not just young romantics but moms (that's JoBeth Williams, above) schoolkids, elders and widowers stricken with grief.  The experience of the young son of the family tears down, in one fell swoop, barriers of class, race -- even height!)  And philosophically speaking (the French should love this film), TiMER asks the question, Can you be unfaithful before you've met the man of your dreams? In fact, the movie actually gives us its own, post-modern notion of an "arranged marriage."

In the fine cast, everyone stands out.  Emma Caulfield (above) makes a charmingly frustrated heroine and Michelle Borth (below) is savvy and sad as her half-sister and best friend.

Ms Williams is in fine form as the pair's mother, and in the male department, Desmond Harrington (below, left) and John Patrick Amedori (below, right) provide, respectively, the 30-something and 20-something love interest with the proper perspective and allure.

After doing a ten-festival circuit, the excellent little film opened in a very limited theatrical run a couple of months ago and seemed to sink without a trace. Yet it is so good that one can only wonder why.  A couple of those festival appearances were at Sitges and Brussels, so perhaps the combination sci-fi/rom-com content confused people. (And not so much the audiences themselves as the folk whose job it was to market the movie to those audiences.)

Too bad.  TiMER is one of the best rom-coms of this, last, or the past several years.  It has the courage of its convictions, too -- which is why the feel-good ending you think you're getting comes freighted with enough ballast to keep things properly stable.

TiMER is available now via streaming from Netflix, which is how I watched in -- in hi-def, too.  It's also available via Amazon On-Demand and perhaps on VUDU (which my Samsung Blu-Ray machine is currently loading, to find out).  Eventually, I hope it will be available on DVD, as well.

No comments: