By: Garrett Collins
Starring: Christopher Reeve, Jane Seymour and Christopher Plummer
I have, in my time of reviewing films, discovered a couple of things that I probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. One being that a lot of times, the best movies aren’t the most initially successful ones. Sure, you have cultural phenomenons like Star Wars and Indiana Jones. But, I have seen, many times, a good movie come out and fade away like the smoke from a cigarette. Yet, one person talks to another about the forgotten gem. And before you know it, the movie finds an audience, and people begin to question how they missed it. Another thing I have discovered, mostly about myself, is that a good love story is hard to find. However one that successfully mixes love and fantasy is next to impossible. Yet Somewhere In Time has broken all these barriers with me. Written by former Twilight Zone scribe (and one of Stephen King’s inspirations) Richard Matheson, the movie stars Reeve as Richard Collier, a Chicago playwright who stays at the Grand Hotel on McKinac Island and discovers a portrait in its lobby. Pictured on this portrait is a beautiful actress by the name of Elise McKenna. Collier becomes so transfixed on the portrait that he learns how to hypnotize himself back to 1912 in order to see her. And see her he does, all the while falling in love and making her manager jealous. The surface of the story has been scratched with my summary, yet I did not even mention the event that takes place in the first few minutes that gets the story going. Or the story behind the photograph that so captivates Collier into thinking he must see Elise. You will have to see these for yourself.
Reeve of course, was two years removed from his career defining role of Superman. Playing against type (supposedly, his two choices at the time were to either do this or play a viking in another film) Reeve sinks his shoulders into a role that can be seen as wimpy by some. Not by me. Love can do many things to someone, and Matheson’s story outlines a way it can bring magic into their lives. Did Collier really travel back to 1912, or did he hypnotize himself into thinking he did? These are questions that are wisely left ambiguous, and situations are outlined yet not dwelled upon. His screenplay goes at least 45 pages (minutes) before Richard and Elise even meet. Does this feel drawn out? No, because the situations around them are given time to develop. How is Collier’s playwright career going? How good of an actress is Elise? Who is in her life that can make their meeting a bad one? All of these questions are answered within this time, and it really makes a great ‘how to’ manual on how to build a good love story. Bravo to Matheson’s writing. Yet, the story would still be just another love story without the correct music to move it along.
I have said many times that no matter how good or bad a film’s premise is, it can be either made or broken by its music. There is no bigger proof of music sweetening the already tasty frosting of a movie than in Somewhere In Time. Composer John Barry (the James Bond franchise) was supposedly going through some hard personal losses when he took on the job of scoring this film. And if the film was already very good, then his emotionally driven score makes it darn near perfect. Swooping hymns and melodies, along with mixing in some Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody, Barry filled the film with a panache and sweetness that was impossible to ignore. Does it go after emotions that make you root for the film’s protagonist? Of course it does. But it does so in a way that does not feel thrown in your face. Somewhere In Time is not throwing out emotions. It is handing them to you, and in turn asking what you would do in each situation.
The film’s supporting cast was also excellent. Seymour encompasses the part of Elise with a style and beauty unheard of. She is beautiful to look at (which is a must for the role she was given) and you feel for her in scenes such as when she gives a heart driven monologue onstage. Plummer plays a role that I have not really seen him play before. The stubborn manager (and the film’s villain) William Robinson, who is trying hard to keep Richard and Elise apart. You hate every single time he is onscreen. Yet, Matheson keeps this feeling to a minimum, as his script does a nice job of keeping the true relationship between William and Elise in the background. Are they lovers? Or is it just a professional jealousy that William is feeling? It is one of the few plot points that I would have liked to see expanded a bit, but the explanation given here is more than adequate.
The film was directed by Jeanot Szwarc, who the year before directed one of Universal’s (who also did this film) biggest hits in Jaws 2. His directing style has never been too fancy, as he does a lot of pointing and shooting with none of the built-in drama that characters like this need to make work. But I must say that Somewhere In Time represents his best work. He uses sunlight very well (especially in the scene that Reeve discovers Elise’s portrait) and nicely stages shots such as Collier leaning against a post with Elise running toward him in the far background. All in all, Somewhere In Time is a beautiful film. It is proof that collaborative efforts can make magic happen. Sure, there are moments that can be seen as cheese served on a platter. But sometimes you have to put all reservations aside and enjoy the ride that filmmakers put you on. Matheson’s script gets the personal supernatural element of the film just right. We could just as much be seeing his fantasy come to life (is it sheer coincidence that the lead protagonist of this film is named Richard?) Reeve brings a nice match of wacky in love persona combined with a slight hint of Clark Kent. And the emotions that come with love are drawn out to the film’s stunning conclusion. Do yourself a favor and seek Somewhere In Time out. If it can break the boundaries of love and fantasy as successfully as I feel it does, I am pretty sure it can make its way into your heart as well.
5 out of 5