The Tomorrow Man
The title of The Tomorrow Man refers to Ed, a retired loner who spends all his time on conspiracy websites and all his money stocking up on food and fuel in preparation for the collapse of civilization, which Ed expects at any moment.
The charm of The Tomorrow Man is in its lead actors. John Lithgow is Ed, and he turns this nut job of a character into someone moderately sympathetic. It helps that the screenplay, by first-time feature director Noble Jones, softens the rough edges of what men like Ed are really like, keeping his rants generally civil and toning down his abrasiveness.
Ed sees a chance to ameliorate his loneliness in Ronnie, a woman his age who appears to share some of Ed’s shopping habits. Blythe Danner’s performance as Ronnie is among the best in her recent career renaissance as the embodiment of aging’s many hurdles: loneliness (I’ll See You in My Dreams), memory loss (All They Had), aimless adult children (Hearts Beat Loud) and confrontations with a buried past (The Chaperone).
Danner returns to loneliness for The Tomorrow Man, but the time out she’s not the sophisticated widow we expect, but an isolated, incurious, underemployed woman with an embarrassing secret it takes the movie most of its running time to reveal. Danner gives remarkable life to Ronnie’s casual, defensive rejection of anything that might threaten her fragile bubble of stagnation.
The concept of the movie is that Ed and Ronnie bond by holding easily dispelled illusions about one another, then must face the more difficult truths as they’re reluctantly confronted with the not-so-pretty reality. It works as far as it goes, but Jones either isn’t interested or isn’t capable of fleshing out his characters and challenging himself with more painful — and potentially more revealing — conflicts.
Instead, Ronnie gets a one-sentence back story, and Ed gets a prickly son (Derek Cecil, House of Cards) with a calmer wife and an unhappy teenage daughter, both evidently supplied by Central Casting.
The notion of building a movie around a couple self-deluding seniors of clashing pathologies is a good one, but it would have benefitted from a richer understanding of their blind spots and some more devastating cracks in their illusions on their way to — well, somewhere more original than where The Tomorrow Man goes. Instead, Jones keeps everything on the surface and even tags on an ending that pretty much negates what little character development he has managed to that point.
Fans of Danner (count me in) and Lithgow will enjoy these fine actors’ admirable work to bring Ed and Ronnie to life but may feel a little cheated that they weren’t given more to do.
Grade: C. Rated PG-13. Opens June 7 at Biltmore Grande.
(Photo: Bleecker Street Media)