We’re all about comics here at Panels on Pages, but a geek cannot live on comics alone. Outside the Longbox is our chance to spotlight something outside our typical four-color realm – be it movies, music, TV or whatever.
I first noticed TiMER sitting on the shelf at Hastings awhile back. “Huh, Emma Caulfield has a movie,” I thought to myself. “Good for her.” I scanned the back of the box and the premise was intriguing, though not quite enough for a rental. So on my Netflix queue it went, to be promptly forgotten about until it showed up in the mail. I popped it in and settled back for what I assumed would be a forgettable little romantic comedy. What I got instead was a movie that through sheer charm worked its way onto my “Favorite Films of All Time” list. Writer/director Jac Schaeffer created a near perfect debut outing filled with humor, heart, pathos and drama. With a totally original premise, an excellent script and a talented cast, she hit a home-run her first time at bat.
Set in the present day, TiMER posits just one change in the past that had a ripple effect on how people date, marry and fall in love: sometime in the ’90s the Timer was invented. A small digital clock that’s attached to your main wrist, your Timer counts down until the day you’re destined to meet your one true love. It will zero out at midnight that day, and sometime in the next 24 hours you’ll meet your One. When you meet, both your Timers will chime a tune in unison, signaling the event. What happens next is up to you, be it immediate marriage or a normal courtship. Towards the beginning of the film is a short montage of the history of the Timer, featuring interviews with its manufacturers, users, and even a very 90′s commercial. It sets up the conceit of the Timer extremely well and lets the film move right on into the story.
Oona (Caulfield) is a single woman with a blank Timer, which means her One is out there but doesn’t yet have a Timer of his own to interact with hers. She routinely dates Timerless men until she can convince them to get a Timer of their own, whereupon she hopes both will immediately zero out, a strategy that has yet to work. Her stepsister and roommate Steph (Michelle Borth), whose Timer is counting down for another 13 years, does the opposite, having one night stands with guys who already have Timers, enjoying the passion of guys who aren’t ready for their One. Oona meets Mikey (John Patrick Amedori), a young checker at a grocery store who clumsily attempts to hit on her, though she’s put off by his Timer, which indicates it’ll be four months until he meets his One. When her teenage brother gets his Timer and it begins counting down from only three days, a frustrated Oona hooks up with Mikey. What was meant to be a fling soon turns into something more as Oona and Mikey really connect, despite differences in both their age and Timers. Meanwhile, Steph meets Dan (Desmond Harrington), the grandson of one of the patients at the retirement home where she works. At first not interested since he doesn’t have a Timer, and intending to set him up with Oona, sparks begin to fly between the two of them. As Mikey’s Timer gets closer to zeroing out, things get more complicated and a happy ending for everyone just might not come about…
That gets you roughly halfway through the movie and it’s there I’m ending my synopsis. I could tell you more, but I think it’s better if you see for yourself. As I said before, the cast is terrific. Caulfield and Amedori have great chemistry together, as do Borth and Harrington, but the best pairing is Caulfield and Borth as sisters. They’re so natural together you instantly buy into their relationship. The rest of the cast is also quite good, especially JoBeth Williams as Oona’s Timer-embracing mother. The film does an excellent job establishing the Timer itself, making the technology feel like it probably would, with the closest comparisons being to a cell phone. (Kali Rocha has a couple fun scenes as a Timer saleswoman, and as a Buffy fan it was a nice treat to see Anya and Halfek together again.) But easily the best thing about TiMER is Schaeffer’s script. It crackles with wit (“You were fresh off the bus and I didn’t want to see you seduced by the adult film industry or L. Ron Hubbard.”) that’s nearly on par with that of Joss Whedon or Gail Simone. (“What time do you get off?” “What?” “Do I need to repeat myself?” “Yes. Into the loudspeaker, if possible.”) TiMER remains so far the only feature film by Schaeffer, but suffice to say whenever she makes her second I’m there. For now I’ll settle with watching TiMER a few times a year, and I urge you to give it a shot. Needless to say, TiMER scores a perfect 5 out of 5 Thanksgiving burritos.