Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Movies I'm Watching: Jump Tomorrow

One of the better video rental shops in my area, Rincon Video, in Santa Rosa, has a staff that knows movies (you'd expect that at a video shop, but it's not always the case). I'm grateful for their recommendation of Jump Tomorrow (2001; written and directed by Joel Hopkins; starring Tunde Adebimpe, Hippolyte Girardot, Natalia Verbeke, and James Wilby). I was renting Bubba Ho-tep and Delicatessen (next on my list), and was able to rent a third title free. This is what I got.

So many films described as laugh-out-loud funny simply aren't, but this had my sides aching, and it manages to incorporate a love story within the often hilarious tale of bumbling, uptight, clueless-yet-sincere George (Tunde Adebimpe) a young man who gets hopelessly sidetracked on the way to his own wedding, which is to take place in a few days (to a childhood friend he hasn't seen in years--a wedding arranged long ago in his home country of Nigeria by his relatives and hers).

He's somewhat dazed and confused from the outset; he's a day late for his appointment to pick up his fiancé arriving from Nigeria at the airport, where two chance encounters send him caroming in new directions. He bumps into Alicia (Natalia Verbeke), a sexy, vivacious Spanish beauty and falls in love at first sight. We get the impression he's never been in love before. He then bumps into Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot), a Frenchman who's just been jilted and left holding the flowers after proposing marriage to his girlfriend at one of the airport gates. We get the impression he's been in love far too often. The rest of the film is fueled by George's quest for Alicia, aided and abetted by the semi-suicidal Gerard who thinks he knows a thing or two about love, while George's wedding looms ever closer.

Jump Tomorrow's themes are familiar. There is much that's predictable here. At its core, this movie is about the struggle between the imperatives of love and lust on the one hand and the shackles of responsibility on the other--two conflicting forces that can and do scar lives when they clash. It draws shamelessly on our desire to see unfettered love triumph--to hell with responsibility--but it allows us to do so with a good conscience: Alicia's boyfriend is hardly a sympathetic character, George finds a path in life that appears to make sense, and Gerard comes to accept his situation. Yes, on one level there's nothing new here--the human struggle between love and duty is an old story, but it's a story we love to see play out.

The editing and visual presentation were striking. Particularly interesting was the use of plain backgrounds of a single (often primary) color with just a head shot or a single prop in a contrasting color that was common in the early part of the film. There is a quality about the design choices that brings Mondrian to mind. The starkness and plainness are perhaps intended to suggest the uncomplicated life that George has led so far. As the film progresses and George's life starts to go haywire, the device is used less frequently. Whatever the intent, it was visually arresting. While Jump Tomorrow is visually modern, the film's almost irresistible appeal to our desire to see George break free and follow his heart and the movie's ultimately hopeful, life-affirming message are reminiscent of films by Frank Capra like It's a Wonderful Lif and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Recommended.

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