Thursday, February 10, 2011

Somewhere in Time: The Playwright Explains His Obsession For You

When people ask me why I wrote Slumpbuster, I sometimes tell them it was to give hope to long-suffering fans of one of the world’s true underdogs. I know everyone assumes I’m talking about the Cubs, but actually I’m referring to the 1980 movie Somewhere in Time. I don’t know if people truly realize today just how reviled this film was when it first came out. If you think Sandra Bullock in All About Steve got bad reviews, check out New York Times critic Vincent Canby’s comparison of Christopher Reeve in Somewhere in Time to a “giant, helium-filled canary.”

I first saw this movie as a film student at NYU.  Here’s something about NYU you should know. You’re taught to worship at the altar of the greatest, grittiest New York filmmaker of them all, Martin Scorsese, and if your career goes just right, the professors would constantly remind you, then maybe you too will make a tough-minded, two-fisted, searing masterpiece about the dark underbelly of the human condition like Taxi Driver or Raging Bull. A syrupy sweet time travel romance directed by the guy whose biggest credit was Jaws 2 doesn’t really fit that profile. Is it any wonder that my friends couldn’t wait for Somewhere in Time to end so they could make fun of it? Is it any wonder that they (yes, Joel, talking to you) have never let me forget that I was the only one that day to sheepishly admit, I kinda sorta liked the thing. Okay, loved it. It’s hard to explain why. Maybe it’s because I’m always fantasizing about erasing my mistakes that I’m a sucker for any story where the hero travels back to the past. Or maybe because when I first saw it, I was fresh off my first major heartbreak. So that scene where Christopher Reeve finds the penny spoke to me in a way that Jake LaMotta getting punched in the face just never did (sorry Marty).

For many years, SIT (as fans abbreviate it) was my love that dare not speak its name, a secret shame only to be whispered to the most trusted non-NYU friends. But a funny thing has happened since I was first vilified for loving this movie. Other people have come out of the closet and admit they love it too. The film now has a fan club so large it meets annually on Mackinac Island (where SIT was shot). WGN in Chicago actually had a marathon showing of the damn thing a few years ago, a landmark occasion re-created in Act One of Slumpbuster

Perhaps it’s not surprising that a Chicago TV station might spearhead a Somewhere in Time revival. There’s something of a hometown interest there (Reeve’s character is a Chicago playwright), and of course Cubs fans know what it’s like to wait a long time for fortunes to change. It only took about thirty years for Somewhere in Time to achieve a measure of respectability. Gotta figure the Cubbies, 103 years and counting, are due. 

The Chicago Cubs of writers, Robert was thrilled to bust his slump by winning PianoFight’s ShortLived 3.0 for Anton Chekhov’s The Three Minutes. Other credits include Saratoga at Chicago ScriptWorks and Someone Like You starring Lea Thompson at the AFI Writers Workshop. Robert is currently a reader for HBO and adjunct instructor at National University. He has no comment on rumors that Somewhere in Time always makes him cry.

Slumpbuster opens Today, Thursday Feb 10th and runs thru Mar 6th
8PM Thursdays and Sundays
Asylum Lab
1078 Lilian Way, Los Angeles
Tickets $20 online or at the door