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Watch This: Richard Curtis Does the Groundhog Day Thing as Sci-Fi in Trailer for About Time

On the topic of romantic comedies, Mindy Kaling once argued in The New Yorker the genre should be thought of as “a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world operates according to different rules than my regular human world.”  This argument gets at the superficiality of typical romantic comedy conventions, and calls for a need to enact a buffer between the audience and film lest the audience be fooled into expecting reality to ever conform to what we see in romantic comedies.

This is perhaps made easier by the recent popularity of including actual science-fiction elements in romantic comedy.  Last year saw an investigation of a purported time traveler in the Aubrey Plaza film Safety Not Guaranteed.  This year acclaimed British writer/director is taking a stab at it with About Time.  Does it look any good?  Although the film is not due to be released until November 1st, we have our first look at it now via this international trailer:

So, it’s like a funny Time Traveller’s Wife except maybe better called “The Time Traveller’s Courting of His Eventual Wife.”  Actually, the better comparison is to Groundhog Day, i.e., the male protagonist can re-visit the same romantic encounter with the female protagonist until he gets it just right.  This might prove irksome to those who prefer their female characters to have a bit more agency, as opposed to functioning as mere pawns in a male character’s schemes of conquest.  However, it seemed to work well with Andie McDowell in Groundhog Day.  Rachel McAdams, who has apparently never met a slightly left-of-center premise she didn’t like, might fare just as well, although it’s hard to tell since the trailer focuses more on the boys than the girls.

Speaking of the boys, the male lead is Domhnall Gleeson, best known as Bill Weasley in the final two Harry Potter films (and yes, he is Brendan Gleeson’s son).  Also along for the ride is frequent Richard Curtis player Bill Nighy.  He is almost always good; he just often stars in rather rubbish material.  However, if a bit derivative this film does not appear to be rubbish.  At the very least, Nighy is in full-on Love Actually mode, which is never a bad thing.

As for Richart Curtis, it might not seem like it but it has almost been a full three years since his “Vincent and the Doctor” episode of Doctor Who graced us with its presence.  When the episode was announced, Curtis seemed like an odd choice for Doctor Who.  He’s a longtime veteran of British television (Blackadder, Mr. Bean) with several disgustingly successful rom-com films to his name (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jone’s Diary, Notting Hill) and one which has enjoyed a celebrated second life on home video (Love Actually).  For one thing, he seemed overqualified for the job; for another thing, he seemed to have no real relation to the science fiction genre.  However, the Doctor Who episode which used the historical figure of Vincent Van Gogh to explore a situation in which one simply cannot be saved from themselves proved to be one of the highlights of the show’s fifth season.  Good on you, Mr. Curtis.

Of course, Bill Nighy had a cameo in “Vincent and the Doctor,” as seen above with Van Gogh in the foreground and Nighy in the background.

Well, now he has combined his long history with romantic comedy with his rather recent success with science fiction in About Time, his first directorial effort film since 2009’s rather unfortunate flop Rock the Boat.  It’s just one trailer with a very far away release date, but in a sea of summer movie box office blockbusters it’s fun to look forward to the romantic comedies around the corner.

What do you think?  Looks good?  Bad?  Can’t stand Rachel McAdams?  Let us know in the comments.

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