‘The Map of Tiny Perfect Things’ is Here to Fulfill the Time Loop Movie Quota

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The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (CREDIT: Dan Anderson/Amazon Studios)

Starring: Kyle Allen, Kathryn Newton, Jermaine Harris, Josh Hamilton, Jorja Fox, Cleo Fraser, Anna Mikami, Al Madrigal

Director: Ian Samuels

Running Time: 99 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Random, Mostly Harmless Teenage Shenanigans

Release Date: February 12, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

Oh wow, another time loop movie already? Is Hollyweird required to release at least one of these per year? (Or does it just feel that way because it seems like all the days in the real world are just reruns?) This time around, the romantic story takes special prominence, as was also the case in the loopy likes of Groundhog Day, Palm Springs, and even Happy Death Day. As with Palm Springs, the main guy and gal in The Map of Tiny Perfect Things are both re-doing the same day, and it’s that commonality from whence their sparks fly (at least initially). And I mean, hey, why not! That’s a pretty significant similarity. If you’re living through a time loop, it’s hard to fully relate to anyone else unless they’re also living through that loop.

When we first meet Mark (Kyle Allen) and Margaret (Kathryn Newton), they appear to be at least dozens – if not hundreds (or thousands) – of loops deep. And quite frankly, they’re totally OVER it all. That’s not to say they’re in Despair Mode, but rather that they have a roll-with-the-punches attitude of teenagers privileged enough to not yet be crushed by the weight of adult responsibilities. In a typical time loop movie, breaking out of the loop requires (or is at least accompanied by) discovering how to be a better person. As for Mark and Margaret, sure, they learn some lessons, but that aspect feels more or less beside the point. Instead, they spend their time experiencing all the titular “tiny perfect things” (like the sunset or a cute lost dog reappearing) that occur in their town on this particular day, because what the heck else are they going to do with all this infinity?

Eventually, we do get an explanation about why this loop started and how it shall end, and your chances of finding it emotionally satisfying will probably depend on whether or not you’re a teenager or if you can at least tap into your inner teen. But before we get there, Tiny Perfect Things is more interested in the minutiae of making the most minute changes while repeating a process over and over. There’s a runner in which Mark explains everything that’s going on to his friend Henry (Jermaine Harris) while Henry plays video games. It’s in these moments when the movie is at its most comfortable, as it posits: what if life were like a video game in which you keep making it to the same point and try something different each time to survive or successfully complete a task? Depending on your inclination, the result would either be mind-numbing or endlessly fascinating (or perhaps both).

The Map of Tiny Perfect Things is Recommended If You Like: Twitch video game streaming, AB testing, Discovering postmodernism for the first time

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Lost Dogs

For All of My Life, I See a Lot of Movies. ‘All My Life’ is One of Them.

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All My Life (CREDIT: Patti Perret/Universal Pictures)

Starring: Jessica Rothe, Harry Shum Jr., Kyle Allen, Chrissie Fit, Jay Pharoah, Marielle Scott, Keala Settle, Ever Carradine, Mario Cantone, Jon Rudnitsky, Josh Brener

Director: Marc Meyers

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Typical Brief Language-Related Reasons

Release Date: December 4, 2020

My biggest emotional connection with All My Life came at the very end when we saw footage of the real Jennifer Carter and Solomon Chau, the couple whose story inspired the film, as it made me go, “Oh yeah, it said, ‘Inspired by true events’ at the beginning.” In between, I had pretty much forgotten the real life aspect, as nothing particularly stranger-than-fiction appeared to be happening. Perhaps the real Jenn and Sol’s romance was just as pedestrian as what ended up on screen, although I’m sure it didn’t feel unremarkable to them. Seeing as their story caught the attention of big-time Hollywood executives, it surely must have been passionate somewhere along the way. So I kind of wish I could have watched their entire wedding video instead, because what I actually watched felt like it was written by an Algorithm instructed to create “Generic Heterosexual American Rom-Com 2020.”

Surely it didn’t have to be this way, as we have a couple of fine leads in the form of Jessica Rothe as Jenn and Glee alum Harry Shum Jr. as Sol. Rothe is of course preternaturally charming in the Happy Death Day movies, and while Shum hasn’t broken out on quite the same level as some of his New Directions colleagues, we know that he’s a bona fide song-and-dance man. Let these two kick loose, why don’t you, All My Life! What I haven’t mentioned up until this point, but what is pretty crucial to the premise, is that this story pivots on a malignant cancer diagnosis that interrupts wedding preparations. So tragedy is hanging over the whole affair, but clearly this movie nevertheless wants to be about living life – ALL OF YOUR LIFE! – while you still can.

We need to see these characters doing just that, and we also need to be able to enjoy it vicariously. Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you what I was feeling, and it wasn’t vicarious enjoyment. Rather, it was a mix of confusion, digestion (or indigestion) of banality, and just a profound sense that I’m not connecting to these people. Jenn eats Ding Dongs for dinner at one point, I guess because it’s supposed to be goofy and quirky? At another point, Jenn and Sol dance in a water fountain, I guess because Friends is part of our collective cultural memory? Eventually Sol loses his sense of taste as a side effect of his cancer treatment, and that’s a big deal because he’s a chef, and that’s one of the few moments that I genuinely understand. This movie seems to have selected its name from the “Department of Generic Titles,” but I think a better idea would have been to go with the moniker “Loss of Taste” and then set everything in motion from that starting point.

All My Life is Recommended If You Like: Generic covers of Oasis songs

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Meet-Cutes