Thursday, October 14, 2010

"TiMER" (2009)

Starring Emma Caulfield, Michelle Borth and John Patrick Amedori
Written and directed by Jac Schaeffer

I've made my feelings about the romantic comedy genre fairly well known.  It's one of the hardest genres of movie to make - make a bad action movie and people can still be fairly entertained.  Same goes with bad sci-fi or drama... make it bad enough, and people will still love your movie.  But a romantic comedy?  If your romantic comedy is neither romantic nor funny... you're boned.

Recently I caught part of "Darkness Falls" on TV and thought to myself, "Hrm, I wonder whatever happened to Emma Caulfield?"  Not too long after, "TiMER" showed up on Netflix's Instant Streaming service.  I don't watch a lot of romantic comedies, mostly because most of the ones I've seen simply aren't very good.  You get the occasional Ryan Reynolds gem, but for the most part, you end up with some pretty lame stuff.  But the plot description of "TiMER" and the presence of Caulfield piqued my curiosity. 

"TiMER" presents an interesting sort of alternate reality where most people have a small device implanted in their wrist which counts down until the day when they're destined to meet their one, true love.   Emma Caulfield stars as Oona, an orthodontist about to turn 30 years old.  But Oona's timer is blank... which means that either her one true love doesn't have a timer, or that she may not actually have one.  Oona lives with her sister, Steph (Michelle Borth) who doesn't seem to have much ambition in life.  While Oona is practically obsessed with finding her "one," Steph's timer has already informed her that she's several years away from finding hers, so she likes to simply have a series of one-night stands without consequences.

(Spoilers to follow)

One night on her way to her parents' house, Oona stops at the supermarket and gets hit on by the cashier, Mikey (John Patrick Amedori).  She's flattered, but uninterested, and heads to her parents' for her brother's timer implantation.  Most kids get a timer when they enter 9th grade.  Oona is distraught when her brother's timer almost immediately activates and informs them that he'll meet his "one" in a mere three days.  She heads back to the supermarket and picks up Mikey for a one-night stand, but eventually can't go through with it.  A few days later, however, she ends up seeing his band at the bar, and the two go back to his apartment.  As they begin to spend more time together, Oona finds out that Mikey doesn't have a timer, and becomes conflicted.  How is she to know whether he's her "one"?

Meanwhile, Steph runs into a widower named Dan (Desmond Harrington) who she begins to fall for.  But her timer tells her she's got years to go, and her feelings for Dan don't jive with her plans of having a bunch of hot, one-night stands. 

Will either of them find love and happiness with Mikey and Dan, despite their supposedly infallible timers?

I have to give props to "TiMER" for having aspirations above those of your average romantic comedy, as it actually attempts to explore the concept of one, true love.  Most of these movies are content to simply put people into embarrassing situations and watch them squirm for 90 minutes before the big profession of love makes everything turn out alright.  "TiMER" on the other hand, takes a different tack. 

The concept of the timer itself lends itself to some interesting ideas in the world of the film.  Oona's mother tells her that Oona's generation has been spared the pain of divorce and infidelity since people now have their "one," guaranteed.  The timer takes any guesswork out of dating, unless you're like Oona and your timer is blank.  But on the flipside, the timer also makes problems of its own.  As Oona and Mikey grow closer, Mikey begins to fall in love with Oona.  But because of her timer, she can never quite trust whether or not she's actually in love with him, or if she just loves spending time with him until something better comes along.

Ultimately, this is what destroys their relationship.  Mikey, not having a timer and not believing that people should have them, knows that he loves her without the guarantee of a small beeping device.  So do we believe in a one, true love... or is any love acceptable?  Sadly, for Oona and Mikey, it is not to be.  The 'twist' of making Dan Oona's "one" is sort of a sucker punch of a move for the movie to make.  It sacrifices a little bit of Oona's likability and cred with the audience, in my view, and yet... if Dan and Oona are destined to be together, doesn't that kind of negate all that?  The ending of the film feels a little muddled, even if the tone is hopeful since Dan and Oona are going to end up together.

So the romantic aspect of the film is quite fascinating.  The concepts it explores, the ideas surrounding the timer itself, are really interesting.  How about the comedy part?  "TiMER" isn't often laugh-out-loud funny, though there are some real zingers in there, but perfectly charming and chuckle-worthy all the way through.  Emma Caulfield uses a lot of the same charm and comic timing that was a great success for her on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," making Oona a funny, attractive young woman to root for.  The other actors in the film are all up to the task, as well, save perhaps for Desmond Harrington as Dan, who doesn't get a lot to do.  And when he does show up, he seems a bit dull.  It's probably his voice.

So while "TiMER" might have a muddled message regarding true love, I have to give it props for aspiring to do more than the average romantic comedy.  It's funny, charming and has a likable cast, even if it has a few problems that keep it from being truly great.