Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
Can a movie have a profound impact on someone, even if they've never seen it before? When Somewhere in Time was nominated for April Fools' Week, Rob Van Winkle never realized that he'd be forced to confront forgotten memories from his past. Let's hope he can recover.
A word from the nominator, Beth Woodward:
I chose Somewhere in Time primarily because it was on my mind; I made the mistake of renting it from Netflix a few weeks ago. It sounded like a good idea in theory. I love the idea of time travel. I watch Lost religiously, I have probably watched the Back to the Future trilogy, in its entirety, about 47 times, and The Time Traveler's Wife is one of my favorite recent novels. I'm also a sucker for a good love story; I even wrote a CC2K article defending chick flicks! But somehow, this movie failed on both fronts. Maybe it was the complete and utter implausability of the time travel mechanism; if all it took to travel through time was a period costume and a little bit of self-delusion, Williamsburg, Virginia would have disappeared off of the map a long time ago. Maybe it was the complete hokiness of the love story; from what I understand, "Hi, nice to meet you, I love you," is not the natural progression of most relationships. But it was probably the ending, a piece of overly sentimental crap that felt completely hollow and rendered the rest of the movie totally meaningless (and pointless). I wanted to throw something at my TV, but that wouldn't have been fair to the TV.
Someone to Fear, Somewhere in Time
By Rob Van Winkle
Somewhere in Time is the favorite movie of the craziest woman I have ever known. She was the mother of a girl with whom I had an on-again, OFF-AGAIN “romance” in high school, and she took an aggressively active role in the evolution of the relationship. While I was pining for her daughter, this woman wrote me letters, called me on the phone, and offered her strategies for how I could end up with the girl. When this nascent relationship fizzled, the mother persisted, inserting her daughter into my social circle and then hosting events just to get the two of us together. And ultimately, when it ended before it ever began, she grew to despise me, hatching plots too absurd to be believed to make it clear that her daughter was now too good for me.
At some point during that odyssey, the woman in question revealed to me her passionate and abiding love for Somewhere in Time, even lending me her VHS copy and asking me to watch it. And I did…today, in honor of April Fools’ Week. You’ll forgive me if I’ve avoided it until now.
[IMPORTANT NOTE: I have just been informed by my lovely wife that Somewhere in Time is ALSO one of the favorite movies of my mother-in-law. I am NOT speaking about her. I cannot stress this enough.]
This is perhaps the strangest “normal” movie I’ve ever seen. It features a big budget, a lush score and big-name performers, so I am forced to conclude that it was intended as a piece of legitimate cinema. And yet…what happened? I could be wrong, but I think I just watched a movie that promotes the power of self-delusion, and the joy that comes with death. How romantic!
Christopher Reeve plays Richard Collier, a playwright who is haunted by a strange encounter with an old woman in his youth. While reveling in the successful opening of a show, this woman approaches him, places an antique watch in his hand, and says “Come back to me.” She then apparently leaves the theater, and promptly dies.
Eight years later, Collier is successful, though disenchanted for reasons that are never explained. He decides to go on vacation, and ends up at an old hotel on a whim. One day, while waiting for the restaurant to open, he wanders into the hotel’s museum, and sees a picture of an actress who performed there seventy years prior. He is in love. He extends his stay so he can stare at the photo, and research who she is. Eventually, he gets his hands on a recent article about her, and realizes she is (gasp) the same woman who gave him that watch. (Well, WE realize that. We saw that woman maybe fifteen minutes ago, while it was EIGHT FUCKING YEARS for him.) Somehow, he must KNOW her!
He then finds a professor who admits that he thinks he has figured out the secret of time travel: believe – I mean REALLY BELIEVE – that you can. He tells of a time he was in an old hotel in Vienna, and began repeating to himself that he was actually there in the 1500s. It might have worked…but he was surrounded by modern items. The only way to do it right is to make everything authentic. Naturally.
Collier invests in clothes and money from 1912 (how very fortunate that this resort town has both a costume and a coin collecting shop!) and records his mantra into a tape recorder. After much frustration and ACTING, he wakes up in the past.
There are a few awkward moments and Christopher Reeve’s Clark Kent-esque mumbling and bumbling, but the movie by and large here turns into the “fated love affair” between Richard and Ellie. They meet, they moon, they marvel at one another. The snag in this romantic yarn comes in the guise of Ellie’s agent, played by Christopher Plummer (over-acting by a half, as usual). He hates Richard from his first appearance on the scene, and goes to any length to make him go away. When merely lurking creepily fails to do the trick, he attempts to get him evicted from the hotel. When that doesn’t work, he has local toughs give him a beating and tie him up in the stable. (Superman II came to mind here, since once more Reeve gets beat up in a badly choreographed fight by someone whose ass he could have kicked easily in real life.) However, even this can’t keep our lovers together, and when the reunite, they are now free to have gauzy, soft-focused and sensitive sex.
Unfortunately, just when things seem to have worked out for our couple of destiny, Abraham Lincoln rears his ugly, hate-filled head. While showing off his suit, Richard mentions how much he loves the coin pocket, and inadvertently pulls out a 1979 PENNY! HE FUCKED UP! As the two of them scream, they can only watch in horror as he flies (?) away from her and back into his real time. There is no way back; he has lost his love.
His solution to this conundrum is brilliant in its simplicity: he starves himself to death. Richard parks himself in a chair in his room, and stares out the window until hotel employees bust in and attempt to revive him. As they are trying and failing to bring him back, a smile creeps onto his face. We are propelled up into the light, where Ellie is waiting for him. The end credits roll as freely as the tears down your face.
There are two things that really disturbed me about this movie. One is directly related to the plot, and the other indirectly so.
As far as the story itself goes, I can certainly see the allure of creating a love story that endures through time. I mean, isn’t a mutual, instant love everyone’s imagined ideal? Isn’t it romantic as all hell to suppose that someone is out there pining away for you, willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to be with you, even break the laws of nature? Sure, why the hell not. I personally think this is nonsense, but for the sake of “hopeless romantics” out there, I’ll leave this alone, and even overlook the fact that our man essentially gets to this point by lusting after a photograph.
However, in my humble opinion, even romance movies – if they’re going to add science fiction elements to enhance their story – have to at least make their premise SOMEWHAT plausible, right? I mean, if the purpose of movies like this (I’ll dub them “heart porn”) is to imagine yourself in the heroes’ shoes, don’t you want to walk away with at least a prayer of doing the same thing yourself, if your love was strong enough? Maybe I’m over-thinking this, but I was just so struck by how…well…STUPID the storyline was! He transports himself seventy years into the past by convincing himself that he’s done so? REALLY? Is that the best possible method the writers could have come up with? And once he is brought back again to the present (CURSE YOU modern coinage!), he then commits suicide to get his reunion. Now, I know as little about life after death as anyone else on Earth, but all I’m saying is that this is a HELL of a gamble. If the first plan doesn’t work…you wake up in your modern hotel room in a stupid-looking suit. This second one doesn’t pan out…you wake up never from a thick dirt nap. Think your professions of love through, is all I’m saying.
My second huge problem with this movie is as follows: not only was Somewhere in Time a favorite choice for the craziest person I’ve ever known…but she gave it to me to watch. Just so I’m perfectly clear here…this is a movie about a young man who travels back in time so he can be with an older woman. What…EXACTLY…was the reason that I was given this movie, as a high school student, by a woman old enough to be my mother? Can you even imagine the implications coursing through my brain right now? GAAAH!
In conclusion, Somewhere in Time is the scariest movie I have ever seen in my life. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put on yesterday’s clothes and try to convince myself that today never happened.