Film reviews: About Time | The Great Hip Hop Hoax

Domhnall Gleeson does his best to do a Hugh Grant with Rachel McAdams. Picture: Contributed
Domhnall Gleeson does his best to do a Hugh Grant with Rachel McAdams. Picture: Contributed
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PLAGUE, pestilence, The One Show on Fridays, Madonna speeches, cannibals, The One Show, and middle-aged men signing petitions about who should play Batman – all of these things are far more troublesome than About Time.

About Time (12A)

Director: Richard Curtis

Running time: 123 minutes


And yet sitting through Richard Curtis’s misconceived plod of a film somehow feels equally gruelling.

An awkward conflation of rom com and weepy, it begins chirpily enough with bumbling Tim (Domhnall Gleeson), a trainee lawyer who lives in an idyllic cliff-top mansion in Cornwall with his lovely dad (Bill Nighy, doing an afternoon matinee impression of Bill Nighy, all languorous diffidence and lanky cool), daffy sister (Lydia Wilson), peculiar uncle (Richard Cordery) and Mum (Lindsay Duncan). Already you may be feeling either comforted that this is Curtis on familiar territory, or mildly exasperated that he’s resorted to types already too familiar from Four Weddings, Love Actually or Notting Hill.

Despite being played by a ginger Irishman, it’s also clear that Gleeson has been given the uncomfortable job of impersonating Hugh Grant, who is now far too old to be a lovelorn swain. Gleeson, best known as one of the Weasley brothers in the Harry Potter saga, has some charisma, but he doesn’t yet have the chops to warm up the tepid gags he’s lumbered with.

On Tim’s 21st birthday, his father reveals that all the men in his family have the ability to travel back through time. Not very far – only within their own lifetime, so there’s no killing Hitler or bagging off with Helen of Troy – but still a useful trick which he should use to enrich his life. Dad used it to read the complete works of Dickens, and despite a lecture about money, seems to have squirrelled away the funds to afford desirable property in Cornwall too. Tim uses his powers to court a sparky American (Rachel McAdams) for half the film, a pursuit that requires several travel jaunts to perfect including, in one ineffably icky scene, multiple goes at giving her a night to remember the “first” time they go to bed. Curtis did something similar in The Boat That Rocked, and really, if he still finds the idea of women being misled into sex hilarious, he should walk the plank.

About halfway through About Time, however, it becomes clear that Curtis is only half-interested in consummating his romantic story. Rather, this is a story about Men And Their Dads, and a sermon about the preciousness of time. But Curtis seems deaf to his own preaching, because at two hours, About Time is far too long for its thin parable. He always lets his scenes play out longer than necessary, and time weighs especially heavily when a film is padded with obvious jokes, including the ancient chestnut about women taking ages to choose outfits, then opting for the first one they tried on.

I could bang on about the unconscious sexism and general laziness of letting the women go through the film unaware that two of the menfolk can bop around the timeclock – they certainly don’t get a chance to point out how manipulative some of their actions are – but I’m aware that since this may be Curtis’s last film as a director, it is only polite to find a positive. So here it is: Cornwall looks lovely.

On general release from Wednesday.

The Great Hip Hop Hoax (18)

* * *

IN 2003, a couple of quick-fire Californian rappers arrived on the music scene. Cuter than Eminem, and brassier than the Beastie Boys, the homeboys could have been the next big thing. Instead, they vanished.

In The Great Hip Hop Hoax, Jeanie Finlay tells the story of Billy Boyd and Gavin Bain, Scottish students who went to an audition

in London and were sneeringly rejected as “rapping Proclaimers”. Three years later they returned as Silibil n’ Brains, no longer from Dundee and Arbroath, but San Jacinto. They’d never visited California, so they memorised the town’s layout and talked in nothing but American accents 24 hours a day. The fake act was so convincing that they got a recording deal, appeared on kids’ shows and made friends with Green Day and Busted, until maintaining these alter egos put the friendship under intolerable strain. Finlay’s previous film was Sound It Out, a lovely study of a community created by a record shop, and she’s just as adroit as drawing out the self-mythologising Bain, and the more reticent Boyd, who eventually hightailed it home to start a family with his childhood sweetheart.

At times, Hip Hop Hoax is in danger of overhyping its story (is Charlotte Church’s agent a major force in the music industry?) but Finlay handles the reveals pretty well and makes good use of reconstructions animated by Will Anderson and Ainslie Henderson. However, the film begs for a final reconciliation scene between the estranged friends.

• Glasgow Film Theatre from Friday

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (12A)

* * *

David Lowery’s handsome, moody cross between Badlands and Bonnie And Clyde stars Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara as a couple separated when a botched robbery sends him to jail and leaves her bringing up their child alone. The rest of the story sets up a plaintive romantic triangle between Mara, a lawman she shot (Ben Foster) and Affleck, once he breaks out of jail and heads home. Slow-burning, swoony and spare, but lacking in dramatic urgency.

Glasgow Film Theatre, Friday to 14 September

The Great Beauty (15)

* * *

Paolo Sorrentino returns with an update of La Dolce Vita, this time focusing on a jaded writer (Tony Servillo) who wanders Rome collecting royalties, attending absurd art openings, and bed hopping. It’s a busy life but an empty one too. Long, chaotic, yet with style to burn, the mood is lavishly melancholic.

Glasgow Film Theatre, Friday to 19 September

The Blueblack Hussar

* *

Still looking good at 57, one-time dandy highwayman Adam Ant is the subject of Jack Bond’s rambling documentary. We hear (too much) of his new album, eavesdrop on his scattered memories and encounter a rather jolly Charlotte Rampling. Fitfully charming, but really aimed at obsessive antpeople.

Glasgow Film Theatre, 8 September, including Q&A with Jack Bond

Days Of Grace (15)

* * *

Debuting writer-director Everardo Gout mixes a crime thriller with a backdrop of three successive football World Cups to create a Mexican crimewave. Dizzyingly kinetic, derivative and confusing, but also impossible to sleep through.

Filmhouse, Edinburgh, Tuesday to Thursday

Any Day Now (15)

* *

Soapy story about a 1970s gay couple (Alan Cumming, Garret Dillahunt) who raise an adopted Down’s syndrome son (Isaac Leyva) against a biased legal system. The melodrama is hamfisted but Cumming has some good moments.

On general release from Friday

Twitter: @SiobhanSynnot