Review by James Lindorf
Director Jeremy Lelonde and his co-writer/star Jonas Chernick won several awards at the genre festival Toronto After Dark with their quirky Rom-Com with a time travel spin “James vs His Future Self.” James (Jonas Chernick) is uptight, a bit self-obsessed, and fixated on solving the mystery of time travel. On the verge of a breakthrough, he is visited by his nihilistic future self (Daniel Stern) and told that he needs to give up his dream, or else. Old James is set on not reliving the past over his dead body. James vs His Future Self also features Cleopatra Coleman, Tommie-Amber Pirie, and Frances Conroy and will be available on VOD and Digital HD May 1st, 2020. “James vs His Future Self” is currently Not-Rated, but if it had been submitted to the MPAA, it more than likely would have received an R rating for language.
Depending on where you learned of the concept, only 3-7 types of conflict can challenge the protagonist of any story. The most challenging battle to overcome is often found in stories centered on “Man vs. Self.” Lelonde and Chernick decided to tackle that concept quite literally with verbal and physical bouts instead of the typical internal struggle. One of the more exciting moments of the film is when Old James (Jimmy) is trying to convince Young James that they are, in fact, the same person. Not an easy task given that Daniel Stern is at least four inches taller on top of all the physical differences, but their solution is equally unexpected and clever. The relationship between James and Jimmy occasionally takes on a paternal feeling as they try to find a middle ground where both versions get what he wants.
Courtney (Coleman) is James’ coworker, best friend, potential love interest, and one of the main reasons for Jimmy’s trek through time. The current relationship between Courtney and James is a bit like Big Bang Theory’s Leonard and Sheldon’s. Courtney makes sure James is on time for things, that he eats, and has any life outside of work. The chemistry between James and Courtney fluctuates from stilted to passionate throughout the film. Perhaps suffering from a budget that doesn’t allow for copious rehearsal time or reshoots. Given that most movies are shot nonchronologically, the scenes with the improved chemistry probably came later in the filming schedule. There is a moment between the two in a diner near the climax that is beautiful and creative; the only downside is some Tyler Perry level wig work.
There are plenty of laughs, touching moments, and witty lines dispersed throughout “James vs His Future Self.” Unfortunately, Chernick’s performance as James may be a barrier for some viewers. Not because he doesn’t do an excellent job, he does, but because his portrayal makes James relatively unlikeable for a large portion of the film. When caught up in his work, James can be derailed from any activity; he fails to support his sister and refuses many basic levels of self-reliance. Luckily, Daniel Stern is fantastic as Jimmy and keeps steering the film in the right direction with his crass humor, never letting James’ demeanor overwhelm the movie.
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