The Scoop: 2005 unrated, Directed by David Ray and starring Jay Baruchel, Sarah Lind and Jim Byrnes.
Tagline: Time travel ain’t what it used to be.
Summary Capsule: A drug dealer travels back in time using an ugly recliner wrapped in Christmas lights in an attempt to prevent his girlfriend falling into a coma from a heroin overdose.
Mike’s Rating: Every movie should have Joe Dawson from Highlander: The Series as a homeless man with an inexplicable knowledge of the consequences of fooling with space/time.
Mike’s Review: As anyone familiar with my reviews can attest, I’m a sucker for genre mashups. Weird genre soups like Scott Pilgrim or Brotherhood of the Wolf are the reason I like to review movies (and get the word out that not every movie is formulaic Hollywood drivel). So when my dad told me he’d come across a gritty hallucinogenic drug-culture comedy time travel love story, I was to say the very least, intrigued.
Art is a drug dealer/addict basically just hanging out and hustling his way through life in the slums of Vancouver, (Vancouver has slums, who knew? Pooly, can you verify this?). He and his girlfriend Cody struggle to survive off of what Art can hustle and what Cody can make as a prostitute. One night Art comes in to find Cody unconscious in her bed, apparently having overdosed. As she lies comatose in the hospital, Art turns to his friend Harvey, a homeless junk-collector who provides an abandoned warehouse to stay. It’s here that Art stumbles onto Harvey’s time machine, a recliner that takes him anywhere in any time he asks, and brings him back once he pulls the recliner back upright. From here, Art resolves to find out where Cody’s life went wrong and attempt to change her tragic fate. During his hilariously inept attempts to thwart destiny, Art begins to gain some insight into the forces that shaped who Cody is as a person, and begins to realize that his influence has perhaps been the most damaging of all.
Director David Ray occasionally favors establishing shots of the more run-down and bleak areas of Vancouver that Art and Cody struggle to survive in. This serves not so much to drag the viewer down, but to show the kind of squalor a person can actually grow accustomed to, even find beauty in. The opening shot of Art and Cody, riding together on a bicycle and chasing a red balloon evokes feelings of childlike elation and innocence. Even though later scenes establish the desperate situation the young lovers are in, it’s this scene that establishes who the characters are and sticks with the audience. As Art tries with increasing desperation to find the one thread of Cody’s life to pull that will save her, it’s this scene that keeps the audience engaged and routing for him. These aren’t bad people. They’re everyday people like you or me, who simply made bad choices at too many crucial junctures, a revelation that Art himself seems to come close to making throughout the movie.
I say “seems” because one of the flaws of the film is that certain character arcs just aren’t as dramatic as they should be. The plight of Cody’s brother, for example is touched upon, but doesn’t go anywhere. The same for Helmet’s subplot; what happened between “nice-looking well-spoken guy” and “crazy street wanderer” is pretty a crucial bit of exposition. It’s not relegated to the peripheral characters either. Art at many times expresses a fervent desire to “get out of here”, yet seems to balk at the idea of getting a real job in order to do it. At the end of the movie, Art hasn’t made any world-changing revelations or resolved to do anything to better his station. He simply goes about his life, albeit in a different way. Cody, for her part, seems to be moody and rebellious for no reason. The type of girl that flips the bird surreptitiously during the family Christmas portrait just to be difficult. Even after Art has changed almost every traumatic event in Cody’s life, she still ends up heading downtown to score drugs.
This lack of focus on character development would be deal breakers except for the great performances by the leads. Jay Baruchel does a pretty good juggling act playing a drug dealer/male prostitute/societal leech with a great deal of likability and charm, and an endless supply of love for Cody. You can see why Cody stays with him. As for Sarah Lind as Cody, she carries herself with such disdain, yet lights up around Art. As they see the events that led to Cody being who she is, the audience can indeed see the humiliation, shame and resentfulness growing, and if the performance had been a little more selfish or arrogant, we would have no reason to care about Cody at all. As it stands Linds never plays Cody as anything other than a victim, not necessarily of her circumstances, but of her own choices. She’s not beyond redemption, but maybe she doesn’t know she needs to be redeemed. Her performance gives the audience a reason to want to see her saved. Jim Byrnes, who annoyed the crap out of me in Highlander is actually pretty likable as Harvey, a recluse who seems crazy upon first glance, but upon further scrutiny speaks coherently and intelligently and knows a great deal about the particulars of fourth-dimensional travel.
Fetching Cody works best as a gritty love story with some tongue-in-cheek sci-fi concepts thrown in just for fun, and ultimately messes with our expectations in really fun and subtle ways. The flow of the story moves along rather smoothly considering the number of different genres all vying for attention, the performances are remarkably natural considering how the plot veers sharply into preposterous territory, and the metaphysics of the story remain pretty constant considering it’s a movie centered around a reclining chair that travels in time.
- Director David Ray has stated that the red baloon at the beginning and the end of the film was meant to represent “something – whatever that is – that keeps you going. In Fetching Cody, the ballon represents love, it’s Art’s love for Cody that keeps him going. At the beginning they are chasing it and it keeps them going, keeps them enthused.”
- In response to reviews comparing this film to the Ashton Kutcher vehicle The Butterfly Effect, Ray said that he started writing Fetching Cody in 1999, a full five years before The Butterfly Effect was released.
- The story was partly inspired by Antigone by Sophocles.
Harvey: This is a machine for traveling in time and space!
Art: [Wow], how long have you had that?
Harvey: Where do you think I got these track pants?
Art: How the [heck] should I know?
Harvey: I got them in the future, that’s where.
Art: Well, they are pretty nice.
Harvey: Everyone wears them in the future. They’re really comfortable.
Harvey: That time machine works. There is nothing like it. I mean, just look at these pants!
Harvey: I don’t think you should go around blaming the time machine for all your problems.
If you liked this movie, try these:
- The Butterfly Effect