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Curtis takes viewer on an emotional ride with 'About Time'

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Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson star in Richard Curtis' "About Time." (Universal Pictures) Rachel McAdams and Domhnall Gleeson star in Richard Curtis' "About Time." (Universal Pictures)

Considering what I knew about the plot of writer/director Richard Curtis' "About Time," I shouldn't have been surprised that the first musical notes are an instrumental version of Ben Fold's "The Luckiest."

The first line of the song perfectly sums up one of the film's central ideas: I don't get many things right the first time.

The song is used twice more in the film. Had they been attempting to sway my emotions with the musical selection, I'd have thought the film was cheating because that's one of my favorite songs, so just hearing it makes me feel strong emotions.

The only similar moment I can think of is when I started crying during "Jersey Girl" when Jennifer Lopez died and everyone made fun of me, but I only cried because they used a really sad song from Aimee Mann's "The Forgotten Arm" and I had been listening to the album a lot due to a break-up.

I note this just because it took time to determine whether or not I was genuinely moved by "About Time" or whether or not I just felt that way because they kept using the song that makes me want to learn piano. I know that might sound dumb, so now's as good a time as any to note that I'm really gullible.

It didn't take me long, however, to realize that I was genuinely moved by several moments in "About Time." The film follows likable characters that are easy to relate to and, despite what previews indicate, is much more about the entire human experience than the romantic aspect.

Domhnall Gleeson delivers as Tim, who we follow from age 21 into parenthood, On his 21st birthday, his father (Bill Nighy) informs him that the men in the family can time travel. It's an appropriately awkward conversation that begins the entertaining journey we'll have with these two characters. Every scene between Gleeson and Nighy is warm and quite enjoyable.

The film also focuses heavily on Tim's relationships with his other two favorite people: Mary (Rachel McAdams), who he falls head over heels for, and his frequently confused sister Kit Kat (Lydia Wilson).

There are a couple interesting scenes detailing the creation of their romance -- and how Tim's efforts to help those around him through time travel make his romance with Mary challenging -- but the film is much more interested in the ways they grow together.

As someone who has had to sit through too many romantic comedies, this approach was charming and refreshing. To be honest, aside from the dopamine, the growth of a romance is much more interesting than the creation of one.

The interactions between Tim and Kit Kat were, for me, the most interesting parts of the movie. This is probably because Kit Kat is the screw-up of the family and, thus, the character I connected to the most, but it's a wonderful performance by relative newcomer Wilson. She projects both sadness and youthful energy at the same moments and captures a haunted soul with a huge heart.

Although I related because it hits close to home, I still think audiences are going to adore Kit Kat and probably tear up at the same moments that I did.

My only real complaint with "About Time" is that the film's focus doesn't always match the scope. The film -- especially in the final act -- frequently seems to meander from Points F to G with no real direction because Curtis is too busy trying to capture every aspect of humanity a two-hour film.

There was something about the ending that also didn't feel quite right, possibly because it felt very similar to the finale of "American Beauty," but didn't deliver a similar emotional wallop. I'm not saying it doesn't work on most levels, but I am saying that it had a very general feel that didn't fit how intensely personal the rest of the film is.

I believe the problems are small when compared to the number of things "About Time" does successfully. These characters are wonderful and they react rationally to situations we all face in life. It would take a real cold soul to not embrace these characters.

"About Time" is rated R for language and some sexual content. I doubt it will have any effect on the film's fiscal performance, but I was surprised when the rating screen appeared – I would have bet money the film I watched was rated PG-13.

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