I’ve honestly lost track of the novels, movies, songs, and greeting cards that tell us “It’s the journey that matters, not the destination.” …or something like that. This sentiment is what the makers of this film set out to express, and they do a pretty good job of it. More to the point, it’s commitment to the journey that matters most. Written by Derek Connolly and directed by Colin Trevorrow, this comedy with a time travel plot line is spare in science fiction, but big on heart. It’s really a sweet and funny love story centered on some likable characters, and a leap of faith.
Aubrey Plaza plays Darius, a young struggling intern who is donating her time at a Seattle magazine. When she’s not being abused by the magazine’s editor (Mary Lynn Rajskub) she’s trying in vein to find a paying job anywhere she can. We see in some very clever opening flash backs, and a scene with her father (Jeff Garlin) that Darius doesn’t have much going on personally. Now I don’t want this to sound like an insult, but despite the fact that Plaza is very attractive, she somehow makes it plausible that she might have trouble dating. Her doe-eyes and sultry features are somehow offset by a certain awkwardness that makes her seem slightly unapproachable. While at a pitch meeting at the magazine Darius agrees to help out on a piece one of the writers wants to do on a strange ad running in a classifieds. The ad is from a man seeking a partner to travel through time with, and he states in the ad that they will be paid after a safe return. The writer, Jeff, is played by Jake M. Johnson, and he becomes one of the best things about this film.
Darius, Jeff and another intern named Arnau head out to the coast of Washington State to seek this guy out and see if there’s a story there. Before they even get there, Darius discovers that what Jeff really wants to do is hook up with an old girlfriend who lives not far from the man who placed the ad, and have her and Arnau do everything but write the article. Eventually Darius becomes the one who gains the trust of the man, and the relationship that grows between them is at the center of the film. The man’s name is Kenneth and he is played by indie director Mark Duplass. Duplass plays Kenneth with conviction that is pitch-perfect. Just when he seems like he’s about to come across too broad, Duplass conveys a certain honesty in Kenneth that has us, along with Darius, going along with him. What amazed me about this movie is that there’s not a lot as far as plot goes, but the chemistry between the actors kept me interested in what was going to happen next. Sometimes I forgot that the movie had anything to do with time travel, which it doesn’t, and I just saw it as a love story between two people who share in a common disconnect with the rest of the world. While I enjoyed all the scenes between the two leads, I found that I couldn’t wait for the subplot with Jeff.
What we realize half way through the movie is that Jeff is on a time travel experiment of his own. His scenes with his old flame, played by Janica Bergere are surprisingly touching and bittersweet, and also pretty funny. In the early scenes of the movie, it seems like Jeff is there to solely provide crude one-liners, but as his story moves, he actually becomes one of the most dimensional characters in the movie. Some of the scenes between him and the young virginal Arnau, played by Karan Suni kind of reminded me of the relationship between Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid in The Last Detail.
It takes a great deal of faith and conviction for a man to attempt to travel through time, and unfortunately these days it takes the same kind of conviction for filmmakers to think an audience will go to a movie that depends mostly on good dialog and great performances. I for one am glad that the folks behind this movie had that kind of faith and conviction.