Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tribeca ’09: TiMER

For those pining for a good science fiction chick flick, your wait is over. In the very near future (which basically looks like right now) technology has radically altered the dating process, yet some issues between men and women remain constant. This is the brave new world posited in Jac Schaeffer’s TiMER (trailer here), now screening during the Tribeca Film Festival.

More revolutionary than speed-dating, TiMERs irrevocably changed courtship as humanity once knew it. Now a biometric implant shows a digital read out counting down to when the bearer will meet their true love. When the clock runs down, they will meet their perfect match within the next twenty-four hours, and when that happens, both TiMERs start beeping simultaneously—no more guess work. However, if your true love has not implanted a TiMER, your clock will be blank. Such is the predicament Oona O’Leary finds herself in.

TiMERs have not been kind to the O’Leary step-sisters. Oona is constantly on the lookout for eligible TiMER-less men, usually from flyover country, like Oklahoma. After a few dates, she convinces them to get implanted, hoping to hear that beeping noise. Alas, it has yet to happen. By contrast, Steph’s TiMER works just fine, but it has about twenty-some years to count down. Until she is forty-three, Steph only has one use for the men she meets, and it is not settling down.

While there is a perfunctory explanation of how TiMERS works—something vaguely related to body heat—there is absolutely no believable scientific foundation for such a device. However, once accepted, TiMER scrupulously observes its own rules, which facilitates some intriguing dramatic situations.

To its credit, TiMER offers some sharp speculations on the social implications of such a device. Unfortunately it is weighted down by several annoying major characters. Emma Caulfield’s Oona is such a type-A pill, it is difficult to root for her happiness. Frankly, one could understand her perfect match disabling his TiMER. Likewise, her possible love-interest Mikey, a frail slacker played by John Patrick Amedori, has no romantic credibility whatsoever in any of his scenes. However, Michelle Borth is fantastic as Steph, displaying excellent comic timing as well as delivering the most touching dramatic scenes of the film.

In TiMER, Schaeffer has created a seamless new set of social morays that raise intriguing questions about other potential problems arising from TiMERs. What about the criminal tampering of TiMERs, targeting heirs or heiresses for pecuniary purposes? How do people react when a TiMER suddenly goes blank because of the untimely death of their unmet mate? Such questions evidently will have to wait for a sequel, but it is a good sign when a film generates such musing with its premise.

Schaeffer proves to be both an inventive writer and a sensitive director in TiMER. Despite the unappealing leads, it is a very thought-provoking film, featuring an outstanding supporting turn by Borth. It screens again as part of the Tribeca Film Festival on April 30th and May 3rd.