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(1999) (Douglas Henshall, Lena Headey) (R)

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Romantic Drama: Desperate to win back his ex-girlfriend who's about to be married, a struggling actor suddenly gets that chance when he unexpectedly finds the clock turned back to the moment before they broke up.
In the Notting Hill area of London, Victor Bukowski (DOUGLAS HENSHALL) isn't a happy man. A struggling actor, he's upset that his former girlfriend, Sylvia Weld (LENA HEADEY), an attractive psychologist, is going to marry Dave Summers (MARK STRONG), a charming man she met after breaking up with Victor.

It seems Victor was having an affair with Carol (HEATHER WEEKS), his theatrical costar, and finally decided to spill the beans to Sylvia about their affair. Thus, after six years together, she moved out, got engaged, and he's now trying to stop her with any excuse he can find, but it's to no avail.

Despondent and quite drunk late one night, Victor encounters two men, Don Miguel (EUSEBIO LÁZARO) and Rafael (GUSTAVO SALMERÓN), who cast a magical spell that turns back the clock and allows him another chance with Sylvia.

Suddenly finding himself in the past and knowing where he previously went wrong, Victor decides to change his ways and save his relationship with Sylvia. Unfortunately, he must not only deal once again with her critical friend, Alison Hayes (CHARLOTTE COLEMAN), but also with pending events of which he's already aware.

As such, Sylvia still ends up meeting Dave, a pivotal moment that eventually leads to Victor meeting Louise (PENÉLOPE CRUZ). She's a novice bartender at the local pub where he often drowns his sorrows and has been searching for another bartender (ELIZABETH McGOVERN) who complimented his looks in the "future." With Victor and Sylvia's relationship still uncertain, they and the others in their lives try to sort out their various romances.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or loved the movie "Sliding Doors" and have heard that this one is similar, it's extremely doubtful that they'll want to see it.
For language and a scene of sexuality.
  • DOUGLAS HENSHALL plays a struggling actor who's cheated on his longtime girlfriend. Given the chance to turn back the clock, he tries to fix things with her. Along the way he cusses some, smokes, drinks (to the point of getting drunk) and lives with several women.
  • LENA HEADEY plays his girlfriend who cusses and also has an affair when the clock is turned back.
  • PENÉLOPE CRUZ plays a new bartender who smokes and eventually apparently lives with Victor.
  • MARK STRONG plays Sylvia's fiancé as well as her adulterous lover after the clock is turned back.
  • CHARLOTTE COLEMAN plays Sylvia's disapproving girlfriend.


    OUR TAKE: 4.5 out of 10
    Reminiscent, but clearly not as good as last year's "Sliding Doors," "Twice Upon A Yesterday" is yet another entry in the "if only/what if" second chance scenarios that often prove to be good movies, but sometimes work better in concept than realized execution. Having popularized storytelling for ages, such plots play off the audience's common feelings of regret regarding past events they wish they could have changed.

    From Dickens trendsetting "A Christmas Carol" to "It's A Wonderful Life," "Groundhog Day" and Gwyneth Paltrow's pre-Shakespearean film, these stories are about people getting another chance -- and occasionally many if you're Bill Murray -- to relive some part of their lives and make them better by correcting past mistakes.

    Initially entitled "If Only," the film, while similarly dealing with an unfaithful boyfriend and a time bending second chance at a better life, doesn't follow the simultaneous split personality plotting that made "Sliding Doors" so much fun. Instead, it follows the more traditional "rewind time and fix things" thrust.

    As such, the story follows the standard plot where the self-absorbed character realizes their errant ways, mysteriously gets a chance to fix them, and then sets out to do so. While this film does offer a moderately interesting destiny and/or fate versus free will "argument," it also contains a few problems that prevent it from being as compelling or entertaining as it might have been.

    First, it enacts its time travel magic -- an element that involves an odd and awkward appearance by several Don Quixote-based sanitation workers -- a bit too early in the story. For any such plot to work properly, we really need to know about the character and their current situation. While both are presented here on a superficial level, the payoffs in the "second chance" part of the story aren't as strong as they could have been simply because they weren't perfectly set up by the material preceding the "time travel."

    Although we witness Victor's happiness at suddenly being in the past and of him greeting his old theater buddies, we don't feel the same joy because the transference comes too soon and we never saw those particular friends in the first half. One easily gets and can appreciate the idea, but never fully empathizes with the protagonist.

    The film also makes a crucial mistake -- in my opinion -- by not going back far enough in time before Victor's amorous indiscretion. Since we only travel to the pivotal moment where he's already had the affair but now decides not to tell Sylvia of it, he still comes off as a complete cad to us, no matter the filmmakers' intentions. Had the film allowed him to completely cleanse himself of his sins -- so to speak -- and start anew, the audience would have really gotten behind him.

    While the plot does give him something of a deserved comeuppance in an interesting, later story development, the damage is still done. The choice of the lead actor for the role and the way in which he plays the character as written doesn't help such matters either.

    Looking and acting like a disheveled cross between Kenneth Branagh and Eric Stoltz, Douglas Henshall ("Kull the Conqueror"), never quite feels right as a character for which someone would want to root. In addition, one can't imagine that his character's demeanor and/or behavior would endear him to any women, let alone cause the ones in this film to fall for him. As such, the picture flounders without a strong lead performance.

    Playing the parts of those women who make bad choices in men, Lena Headey ("Mrs. Dalloway," TV's "Merlin") and Penélope Cruz ("Open Your Eyes," "The Hi-Lo Country") do fare better than their male counterpart. Even so, they still aren't significantly developed enough to make them completely believable characters. Due to that sparse character development and related plot deficiencies, none of the characters manage to grab the moviegoer's empathy for their individual or collective plights.

    As directed by María Ripoll (making her feature film debut) who works from Rafa Russo's first produced screenplay, the film has its moments, but never takes a stand about what kind of story it wishes to be. It's never magical enough -- beyond the brief appearance of those sanitation workers -- to make it a fun fantasy, nor is it properly developed to come off as a memorable romantic drama, let alone a comedy.

    While the filmmakers have made sure to insert some blatant, plot-related symbolism -- a friend telling Victor that he can't dwell on the past, and the whole trash dump littered with things (and apparently relationships) that people have carelessly thrown away or lost -- they fail to give their work the polished finish it so desperately deserves. Thus, it has that feel of an interesting concept pulled from the oven before it was completely done.

    That said, the proceedings are almost always somewhat interesting to watch as the "second chance" scenario -- just as is the case in other similarly plotted films -- offers some fun sci- fi/fantasy type moments and revelations. Although the film never lets on about whether the second chance elements are reality, a fantasy/dream, or a drunken hallucination, it at least turns what seems like an unhappy ending into the possibility for another go round.

    Lacking the star power of a Gwyneth Paltrow or a completely compelling and properly thought- out script that could take advantage of the myriad "second chance" possibilities, the film offers a few decent fantasy morsels, but never quite gets up to full speed in telling its story.

    While recording artist Cher may sing "If I could turn back time...," the audience for this movie may wish that the filmmakers could rewind the film and make it just a little bit (or perhaps a lot) better. Okay and easy enough to watch, but certainly nothing special, "Twice Upon a Yesterday" rates as a 4.5 out of 10.

    Here's a brief summary of the content found in this R-rated, romantic drama. Profanity is extreme with at least 14 "f" words being used, along with other profanities and some colorful phrases. A sexual encounter in a bath tub is briefly seen and includes movement, sounds and partial nudity. Other sexual encounters are implied, with most of them occurring in cheating affairs in which the main characters participate.

    A great deal of drinking occurs, with several characters being drunk in different scenes. Beyond that, some smoking and brief violence, however, the remaining categories have little or nothing in the way of major objectionable material. While it's doubtful many kids will want to see this film, should they, or anyone else in your home wish to, you may want to take a closer look at the content if you're concerned about its appropriateness.

  • We see a bottle of liquor on Victor's floor as he's getting dressed.
  • People drink wine with a meal.
  • Victor and his friend appear to have had drinks.
  • Victor has a beer.
  • We see Victor drinking in a bar (a shot and a beer).
  • Victor sees/imagines someone (who's holding a beer) telling him to have one before he leaves.
  • Victor has a beer.
  • Victor appears to be drunk and then he, Don Miguel and Rafael drink what appears to be some sort of alcoholic beverage at a trash dump.
  • When Victor shows up back in the past, Sylvia tells him that he's drunk and he says "I am."
  • Victor and Sylvia have wine.
  • After a successful performance of their play, the director brings Victor a bottle of champagne.
  • Victor, Sylvia, Alison, Dave and others have wine with their meals in a restaurant.
  • Victor has a drink in a bar.
  • Sylvia and a friend drink wine.
  • The piano player in a bar asks Victor to get him a bourbon and Victor then orders a Vodka tonic for himself. Others in the background also drink. Later, Victor appears rather drunk.
  • Victor asks Louise if she wants to get drunk and we then see him carrying her into her place and she appears quite drunk.
  • People drink in a pool hall and Sylvia has a beer.
  • Sylvia and Alison mention seeing Victor in a TV show where his character's father was "high on ecstacy."
  • None.
  • Victor cheats on Sylvia and when the clock's turned back, she in turn cheats on him (with both initially lying to the other about that). Likewise, Carol and Dave have both for cheating with them.
  • Despite Alison being the first to date Dave, Sylvia flirts with him and eventually steals him away from her friend.
  • A man shoplifts a book from the store where Louise also works.
  • None.
  • Handgun: Carried by Carol as a prop in a play rehearsal.
  • Phrases: "Shag" and "Hard on" (both sexual), "Bastard," "Loser," "Pain in the ass," "Pissed" (drunk), "Bloody bastard," "Scum," "Balls" (testicles) and "Wanker."
  • Victor puts his underwear in the microwave hoping to dry it as quickly as possible.
  • A man shoplifts a book from the store where Louise also works.
  • None.
  • A tiny bit of ominous sounding music plays in one scene.
  • None.
  • At least 14 "f" words (1 used sexually as is the word "shag"), 6 "s" words, 1 slang term for breasts ("t*ts"), 2 asses (1 used with "hole"), 2 uses of "wanker," 1 crap and 2 uses each of "God" and "Oh my God" and 1 use each of "G-damn," "Oh God" and "For Christ's sakes" as exclamations.
  • We see Victor and Carol having sex in a bubble bath with her on his lap. As such, we see movement (enough to slosh the water out of the tub) and brief glimpses of the side of her breast, as well as hear sexual sounds.
  • Some costumed women at a carnival show some cleavage.
  • One of Sylvia's friends tells her that the best way to confront Victor about his possible affair is to tell him that a package of condoms fell from his pants in the laundry.
  • In the past, Sylvia tells Victor that they haven't "made love" in a long time.
  • Victor, trying to prevent Sylvia from going to the gym, says that the men there are narcissistic and lift weights to compensate for not being able to get a "hard on." Sylvia later paraphrases that by saying it's because "men can't raise their penises."
  • We see Victor and Sylvia in bed together (under the covers and him shirtless), implying that they sleep together, but in this scene they're just talking.
  • We see some shots of Sylvia and Dave making out in a car.
  • We see Sylvia getting dressed (her in her sports bra) presumably after having just had sex with Dave (he's still on the bed).
  • Victor's friend mentions a woman who will "give you the shag of your life."
  • Talking about a man, Alison tells Sylvia that if she sees him, she should send him over because "I'd like to f*ck him."
  • A woman at an awards ceremony shows cleavage.
  • Victor smokes around seven times, while Louise and a piano player smoke a few times and other miscellaneous characters also smoke.
  • Victor carries a picture of Sylvia around in his cigarette pack.
  • Sylvia sends Victor a cigarette with a message written on it.
  • None.
  • What you would do differently if you could turn back the clock and relive a certain part of your life.
  • People who cheat on their significant other.
  • Upset over Victor's cheating, Sylvia pushes him off the bed and then out of their bedroom and then knocks a guitar to the floor where it breaks.
  • Victor purposefully kicks over a trash can.
  • Carol smacks Victor and then during a rehearsal for their play (where he's tied to a chair), she knees him in the crotch (for real) and then slaps him across his forehead.

  • Reviewed June 1, 1999 / Posted June 18, 1999

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