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Reviews for May 22nd, 2019

The Tomorrow Man

Directed by Noble Jones

      Ed Hemsler (John Lithgow), a retired senior citizen, has a meet-cute with another senior citizen, Ronnie Meisner (Blythe Danner) at a supermarket. They start dating and, soon enough, he invites her to a Thanksgiving dinner at the home of his son, Brian (Derek Cecil). There's more to Ed than meets the eye, though, because he's actually a conspiracy theorist with OCD who's stockpiling non-perishable goods in a bunker because he predicts that an apocalypse is imminent. Ronnie has issues of her own: she's a compulsive hoarder.

      John Lithgow and Blythe Danner have terrific chemistry together, but their warm and tender performances don't compensate for the shortcomings of the weak screenplay by writer/director Noble Jones. There's an early scene that stands out when Ed and Ronnie are sitting in the living room watching a black-and-white movie from the Golden Age of Hollywood during a date and Ed shrewdly comments that they don't make 'em like they used to back in those days. He has a point, so that makes it even more unfortunate that The Tomorrow Man is inferior to most of the romantic drama from the Golden Age. The film moves along at a leisurely pace, which is refreshing, but the dialogue often sounds contrived and too many scenes either feel anodyne or schmaltzy. Schmaltz belongs in matzo balls, not in movies. There are also scenes that don't quite go anywhere interesting and feel concurrently overstuffed and undercooked. i.e. the Thanksgiving meal when Ed's granddaughter, Jeanine (Sophie Thatcher), runs away. That's one of the film's many unresolved and lazy subplots that could've easily ended up on the editing room floor or re-written in a way that doesn't feel so clunky.

      If writer/director Noble Jones were to have just focused on the blossoming romance between Ed and Ronnie and managed to find enough Spectacle within their conversations, The Tomorrow Man would've been a much more engrossing and poignant drama. It feels just as dull and forgettable as last year's The Old Man & the Gun. A third act twist that incorporates CGI leaves nothing to the imagination. Jones' screenplay has heart, but he doesn't trust the audience's imagination and intelligence enough. At least he trusts their patience, though, unlike too many modern directors who make movies for the ADD crowd. If the event at the tail end of the film were to have occurred much earlier on, The Tomorrow Man could've been as powerful as the underrated and understated film from the 80's, Testament. A far less maudlin romantic dramedy about a man with OCD who falls in love with a women is As Good as it Gets. Lithgow and Blythe are wonderful actors who deserve a smarter screenplay that's grounded in much more humanism rather than lethargy, schmaltz and contrivances.

Number of times I checked my watch: 0
Released by Bleecker Street.
Opens at Angelika Film Center and The Landmark at 57 West.
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