I’d bet everyone has considered the idea of going back in time to fix a wrong or reconnect with a lost love. Of course, time travel doesn’t exist, but you wouldn’t know that from popular culture.
Cher wanted to turn back time and “take back those words that hurt you,” and on television Star Trek’s characters crossed time zones more often than a pilot’s Timex.
Time travel plays a role on the big screen as well and not just in hardcore sci-fi. This weekend’s The Time Traveler’s Wife is a science fiction romance, but the love story is foremost, the sci-fi second. Believe it or not, it’s not the only one. They’re not just motion pictures; call them emotion pictures.
In Kate & Leopold, Hugh Jackman plays a 19th century man who discovers a wormhole into 21st century New York, and also the heart of the very modern Meg Ryan. It’s a romance, but plays up on the whole fish-out-of-water situation as Leopold must try and come to grips with modern day customs.
“Are you suggesting, madam, that there exists a law compelling a gentleman to lay hold of canine bowel movements?”
Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married was played for laughs by stars Kathleen Turner and Nicolas Cage, but the underlying message is profound. Turner plays the title character, a 43-year-old woman on the brink of divorce from Charlie, her childhood sweetheart.
After fainting at her high school reunion, she awakens to find herself flung back in time; she’s returned to high school, but this time around she has a world of perspective under her belt.
“I am a grown woman with a lifetime of experience that you can’t understand,” she tells Charlie.
The humour in this underrated classic springs from real emotions. Roger Ebert summed it up when he described the time-bending first kiss between Peggy Sue and her future ex-husband.
“Imagine kissing someone for the first time,” he wrote, “after you have already kissed him or her for the last time.”
Such is the twisty-turny logic of time travel romance. Logic, however, really has no place in these stories.
The yearning to revisit the past is a romantic quest, a feeling based on emotional sentiment that defies reason.
As sci-fi writer George Alec Effinger wrote in The Bird of Time, “The past... is the home of romance.”
– Richard Crouse’s Movie Show can be seen every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on the E! Channel; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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