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About Time

Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service

Domhnall Gleeson stars in a scene from the movie "About Time."
If you could play God, would you—or should you? That big question is at the heart of the romantic comedy "About Time" (Universal).

Written and directed by Richard Curtis ("Notting Hill," "Love Actually"), "About Time" is a wish-fulfillment fantasy about changing your destiny at will, in this instance to win the love of your life. It's a tempting confection, but with a bitter aftertaste. The manipulation of others for selfish reasons, coupled with disrespect for the role of divine providence in one's life, may leave the viewer feeling empty rather than satisfied.

On his 21st birthday, Tim (Domhnall Gleeson) is given a rather unusual present by his father (Bill Nighy). He informs his shy, insecure son that the men in the family possess a special gift: They can travel back in time. It's as easy as finding a dark space, clenching your fists, thinking of a specific moment, and you're there.

Dad offers few guidelines on how to use this ability other than a command to have "an extraordinary life." So the newly confident Tim jumps inside his bedroom wardrobe (shades of Narnia) and travels back to New Year's Eve to kiss the girl he was too shy to the first go-round.

And so Tim discovers his purpose in life: to use time travel to land a girlfriend, fall in love, and have a perfect, happy life.

At first it seems so easy. Tim meets Mary (Rachel McAdams) at a restaurant, and decides she's the one. Multiple do-overs back in time refine and, ultimately, seal the deal.

This is where "About Time" intersects 1993's "Groundhog Day." Unlike that charming film, where the hero betters himself as well as the world around him, "About Time" takes a more narrow view. Tim is only interested in his own happiness. In fact, when he tries to change the past of others (for their own good), he decides not to, as the consequences of doing so would have an adverse effect on his own carefully manufactured "happiness."

In the end, "About Time" reconciles fantasy with reality, with a message about appreciating life as it naturally unfolds, accepting the good while dealing with the bad. Unfortunately, the journey to that weepy, overly sentimental resolution is riddled with distasteful and sometimes sacrilegious "humor." The film contains semi-graphic premarital sexual activity, brief nudity, several vulgar gestures, some sacrilegious humor and sexual innuendo, and much profanity and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R—restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.

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James of the Marche: Meet one of the fathers of the modern pawnshop! 
<p>James was born in the Marche of Ancona, in central Italy along the Adriatic Sea. After earning doctorates in canon and civil law at the University of Perugia, he joined the Friars Minor and began a very austere life. He fasted nine months of the year; he slept three hours a night. St. Bernardine of Siena told him to moderate his penances. </p><p>James studied theology with St. John of Capistrano. Ordained in 1420, James began a preaching career that took him all over Italy and through 13 Central and Eastern European countries. This extremely popular preacher converted many people (250,000 at one estimate) and helped spread devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus. His sermons prompted numerous Catholics to reform their lives and many men joined the Franciscans under his influence. </p><p>With John of Capistrano, Albert of Sarteano and Bernardine of Siena, James is considered one of the "four pillars" of the Observant movement among the Franciscans. These friars became known especially for their preaching. </p><p>To combat extremely high interest rates, James established <i>montes pietatis</i> (literally, mountains of charity)--nonprofit credit organizations that lent money at very low rates on pawned objects. </p><p>Not everyone was happy with the work James did. Twice assassins lost their nerve when they came face to face with him. James died in 1476 and was canonized in 1726.</p> American Catholic Blog Let us never tire of seeking the Lord—of letting ourselves be sought by him—of tending over our relationship with him in silence and prayerful listening. Let us keep our gaze fixed on him, the center of time and history; let us make room for his presence within us.

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