As if revisiting the cult-novel Time and Again from the opposite direction, writer-director Brad Anderson clocks in with a romance in which the hero travels not to olde New York from the present, but to present New York from, possibly, the future. Call it "Time and Again, Again." Newly unemployed directory-assistance operator Ruby Weaver (a naturalistically unvarnished and raw-skinned Marisa Tomei) gravitates towards men who need fixing. Her therapist (Holland Taylor, Anderson's aunt) calls Ruby a classic codependent. So Ruby is wary when she attracts the attention of nursing-home aide Sam Deed (Vincent D'Onofrio), a big, lumbering puppy dog from Dubuque, Iowa who's strangely unfamiliar with dating customs, small animals and the U.N. But Sam's such a sweetheart that when he says after their first date that he loves Ruby, she knows he's sincere. She lets romance take its course, only to freak when Sam confides with equal sincerity that he's a time-traveling "anachronist" from the year 2470. There are several of us around, he says, with fake papers like illegal immigrants. Ohhhh-kay. Ruby's therapist is alarmed when she opts to stand by her delusional man; buddy Gretchen (Nadia Dajani) shrugs it off as sex-fantasy role-playing. Yet there are troubling discrepancies in Sam's story, and he's prone to sporadic spells of confusion, for which he takes medication and which he attributes to time-travel "jet lag." As Ruby, who wants to believe, nevertheless accepts that her beau may be bonkers, the film starts heading in a "Flowers for Algernon" direction on which it never quite follows through. It does, however, take a nicely developed turn for the suspenseful when Sam claims he knows the moment that Ruby will die. A trifle repetitive, and a bit exasperating in its disjointed storytelling which begins in flashback and jumps back and forth before catching up at some point this sweet, lovingly passionate story is nonetheless a charmer. Anderson's technique jaggy, product-testimonial close-ups; eerie still-image insertions is arresting, but this is an actors' showcase. Tomei conveys Ruby's complexities so well that you never think she's stupid for hanging in, while D'Onofrio makes his incredible character credible. There's real trapeze-without-a-net chemistry between them, and it doesn't diminish their work to applaud the movie's terrific set design: Finally, a film with believable New York City apartments, from the painted-over French doors to the overall weathered grunginess. It's about time.
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