Off The Shelf – Retro Review: Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel
After checking out Men in Black 3, and mostly enjoying the time travel aspect, I was pretty hyped to talk about time travel in film. I’ve got a pretty in-depth analysis of The Terminator timeline that I like to tell people whenever I get an opportunity, but I’ll save that for another day. Instead, I decided to take a look at another time travel movie and see what it was all about. So I checked out Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel, currently available to stream on HBO Go for HBO subscribers.
The first thing that drew me to this movie was its title. I’ll be honest, when you’re looking for random movies to stream online it can be kind of a crap shoot. For every great movie, there are hundreds of stinkers with similar names. It’s a little better for HBO Go, since the content there tends to be a bit more premium, but you can still sometimes find yourself inadvertently watching something terrible. Thankfully, for the most part, that was not the case with Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel.
The second thing that drew me to this movie was the name of the lead actor: Chris O’Dowd. Ever since I began watching Netflix streaming content I’ve become infatuated with British programs, and one of the major reasons for this is The IT Crowd, a quirky and riotously funny sitcom based around the IT department for the fictional Reynholm Industries. Chris O’Dowd’s Roy managed to be funny enough that whenever I see O’Dowd’s name, I try to take a second look (he even made an appearance on HBO’s Girls recently, though his American accent needs a little work).
Here, O’Dowd plays Ray, a lovable loser who just lost his job at the local amusement park. Ray loves stories about time travel and his pub buddies, Pete and Toby, use every opportunity available to tease him about it. One night at the pub, Ray meets an enigmatic woman while getting a round for the group. The woman, Cassie (Anna Faris), claims that she is a time traveler who has come back to meet Ray. Ray, it seems, is important to the future and Cassie just couldn’t help but meet one of her idols.
Ray shrugs off the strange meeting, until Toby goes to the restroom and travels through time himself, finding himself in the pub sometime in the future – where everyone is dead. From there the group travels all around the space-time continuum through the pub restroom due to a “leak” in time.
The listing for Frequently Asked Questions listed it as “horror/sci-fi”, but that’s not exactly right. It’s a comedy, perhaps a bit dark, but a comedy nonetheless. Though it does delve into the mystery of the deaths in the future pub, it’s not what I’d call a horror movie. Made through a partnership between HBO films and BBC, Frequently Asked Questions skews closer to a British sensibility with regards to the humor and tone.
But the best part of Frequently Asked Questions is the awesome time travel conceit. It’s a (mostly) closed loop time travel story, with the guys looping around and viewing scenes that they’ve previously witnessed but from a different angle. It’s pretty fascinating, and while the time travel consistency kind of falls apart in the last ten minutes or so, it’s solid enough right up until the finale.
Frequently Asked Questions is not the best comedy out there (or time travel comedy for that matter), but it manages to do quite a few things right for a low budget sci-fi film. It’s a few years old (release originally in 2009), but certainly worth looking into if you’re into cool time travel in movies.