TJFF: Future ’38

How do I explain this? . Future ’38 was filmed last year but is pretending to have been filmed in 1938. It is set in 2018 but, remember, this is the 2018 as imagined by fictional filmmakers from the 1930s. Or present day filmmakers imaging what 1930s filmmakers would think 2018 would look like.

Film historians or whoever’s job it is to uncover lost screwball comedies about time travel from 1938 have recently uncovered a lost screwball comedy about time travel from 1938. After a brief introduction by a real life scientist who praises the scientific accuracy of all the time travel bits, the film begins in black and white in the height of World War II. Essex (Nick Westrate) is the most dependable GI this side of the Atlantic. His mission: Leap 80 years into the future in search of the powerful isotope Formica which, according to Dr. Elcourt from the Laboratory of Science, will be strong enough by 2018 to win the war for the Allies.

Essex wakes up (in Technicolor) in 2018. A version of 2018 you just have to see for yourself. On the one hand, it’s a startlingly accurate picture of 21st century life. On the other, it’s filtered through the limited imagination of a fictional 1930s science fiction writer. They have a 24 hour news cycle, for example. it’s just a guy on a unicycle though yelling “Extry Extry”.

In 2018, Essex almost immediately meets Banky (Betty Gilpin), a streetwise hotel manager who thinks he’s just “a little queer” because he’s from Pasadena. Once she agrees to show Essex around (“I could use a little fun and you’re Coney Island without the smell”), Future ’38 quickly finds its rhythm. The way they get the 21st century both right and wrong at the same time is funny enough. But Future ’38 is at its absolute funniest as a straight 30s style screwball comedy that mimics the fast-paced dialogue, slapstick, and romance more than it mocks it.

There’s a joke or two here that are maybe just a bit much. Most do land though even once the novelty of the outrageous style and concept has worn off and Gilpin and Westrate play off each other like true stars of the 30s. This could have easily been unwatchable had the writing, casting, and attention to detail not been so spot on. I think you’ll like it.

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8 thoughts on “TJFF: Future ’38

  1. Pingback: TJFF: Future ’38 — ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES | Fantasy Gift Sources: Book Reviews, Article Resources, News

  2. Alasdair

    I’m sort of clod that would get huffy at the movie not being “accurate” to the imagination of interwar sci-fi speculation, but I may have to give this a look. I also need to get around to watching “High Treason” and “Things to Come,” which are actual British movies from the 1920s and 1930s imagining life a few decades down the line.

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  3. Liz A.

    I do love screwball comedies, and I like films from 1938. This… Maybe I’ll have to check it out just to see.

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  4. sportsattitudes

    This sounds intriguing…even though I’m currently doubting my investment in so many time travel universes. Many rules being broken when it comes to time travel in entertainment these days. You’d think they’d publish an official set of rules…

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