This movie isn’t a joke. It’s a funny, quirky movie about time travel… but not really. Kenneth (Mark Duplass) has taken out the ad in all earnestness, and Darius (Aubrey Plaza), with her boss Jeff and a fellow mishap intern, travel to the small, backwoods town where Kenneth has lived since his parents’ death, to apply for the position and possibly find a story to write about for the Seattle paper that employs them. There must certainly be a story behind this man’s odd request, if not one that simply pokes fun at his oddity. And sensing this motive, Kenneth rejects Jeff’s solicitation right away, but when Darius takes her turn the two are immediately drawn to each other; she to his sincere, intense beliefs, and he to her dark, probing directness.
If you could go back in time, where would you go and why? His involves love. Hers involves loss. Both reasons are heartfelt and real, and while we are talking about other times and places, those that make us the people we are today, what we are experiencing, ironically, is nothing but the present. Given all our baggage it’s the present that is our reality, and where the action in the film is firmly based, in the love and friendship that these two damaged people are able to share with each other in the now, as Kenneth prepares Darius for their trip back in time.
Endurance training, weapons practice, all rather primitive, comical, innocent. Precautionary. They need to be ready to face anything, and in so doing they get to know each other’s insecurities, they test each other’s restraints, they break down boundaries and walls, they share fears, hopes and dreams, and then at last, they make the profound and glorious discovery that there is another person alive on what has up to now been their planet of one. They are not alone. Kenneth and Darius learn to trust each other. In the end, a wonderful finale that left me with a misty smile on my face, this movie wasn’t about time travel so much as time travel was used as a metaphor for relationships and the incongruous world of life. “One can’t make the journey alone. One needs a co-pilot.” To believe and trust in the impossibility of a true, committed, and lasting love is in essence a leap of faith. Like time travel itself.
I can’t put into words how much I liked this movie. Mark and Jeff Duplass, also the creators of another favorite of mine, Cyrus, with Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, and John C. Reilly, have managed to accomplish something unique. Or accomplish might be a strong word; it feels as if their movies stumble into themselves, that the Duplass’ don’t set out with a firm intention of theme other than what unfolds after the movie is completed. Perhaps it doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s magnificent, and as a result, they too have stumbled upon something—their own planet of film, one where stereotypes are replaced by idiosyncrasies. A planet that makes you feel welcome and at home.