Jump Tomorrow takes a simple premise — a hesitant groom on his way to the altar — and fashions a sweet and charming pop art fable about the random nature of love. Here’s a film which shows just how much maintaining a specific tone (in this case, deadpan, absurdist humor with a spoonful of sugar) can elevate a film from a simple boy-meets-girl tale to something more, something which seems at once mythic and ordinary.
“Smile, you’re getting married!” That line gets repeated so often to George (Tunde Adebimpe) during the first few minutes of Jump Tomorrow because he actually doesn’t look too happy about the situation. But hesitancy seems to be an important part of George’s personality, along with shyness, compassion, the willingness to help others and a dry, self-deprecating wit. (When asked if he ever tried wearing contact lenses, George calmly replies, “I don’t think my face makes much sense without my glasses.”)
Anxious to please the relatives who raised him in the United States, George has agreed to wed a childhood friend from Nigeria, and after making a few last-minute wedding preparations, he goes to the airport to meet her. Unfortunately, he’s a day late. So instead of seeing his intended before their nuptials, George casually encounters two people who will change his future. Alicia (Natalia Verbeke) borrows a pen at a pay phone and invites him to a party, displaying an ease with herself and others which enchants the reserved George. This is followed by an awkward encounter with the just-jilted Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot), who shatters George’s fragile sense of personal space with a grief-stricken embrace in the men’s room.
Writer-director Joel Hopkins (himself a transplanted Englishman) presents a comfortably multicultural America in Jump Tomorrow, where everyone is from somewhere else and carries their sense of self into the new world. Nigerian, Spanish and French, these three characters share an inherent romanticism, a feeling that love is something more than going through the motions of mating. Hopkins soon puts them on a road trip from Manhattan to Niagara (dubbed the capital of love and suicide) along with Alicia’s smug British boyfriend, Nathan (James Wilby).
Key to the success of this offbeat romantic comedy is the terrific chemistry between these wildly diverse performers (the fearless, flamboyantly goofy Girardot inspires reckless abandon in his companions), and the way Hopkins creates a very specific environment. Although the characters and their attitudes are very contemporary, the interior design of every place they wander into is pure 1970s, that marvelously tacky decade when good taste was trumped by whimsical creativity. The music, a perky score by John Kimbrough and well-chosen songs (from Touch and Go, Vanity Fare, the Eels), contributes to the feeling that these characters are traveling not just across New York state, but back to a pre-ironic state.
Jump Tomorrow is delightfully subtle in its humor and big-hearted in its emotions, a road movie about losing your inhibitions along the way.
Opens Friday exclusively at the Main Art Theatre (118 N. Main, Royal Oak). Call 248-542-0180.
Serena Donadoni writes about film for the Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].