Hello, friends in time, and welcome to a regular feature on Cinema 52 where I put my weekly viewing of Back to the Future on hold and watch another movie featuring time travel for comparison. It may not keep me sane, but it will probably always involve one guy shouting, “This doesn’t make any sense!” And that’s good enough for me.
FETCHING CODY (2005)
After watching Time Changer, the Christian time travel movie, it seemed like a fitting contrast to follow it with Fetching Cody, the temporal adventures of a man who sucks dicks for drug money. When Art (Jay Baruchel) discovers that his girlfriend Cody (Sarah Lind) has overdosed on heroin, he has no idea what to do. Luckily, his crazy friend Harvey (Jim Byrnes) just happened to find a time machine in a dumpster, so Art hops in and tries to get her off the smack.
A quick poll, before we go any further… someone you love is in an overdose-induced coma and you have a time machine. Lots of options with such a craft, of course, but which one do you absolutely do first?
- A) Go back in time a few hours to the moment they first started using the substance they overdosed on. Stop them.
- B) Take a nap because fuck it, it’s time travel, then go back in time a few hours to the moment they first started using the substance they overdosed on. Stop them.
- C) Go back in time to their junior high years and try to figure out what made them sad enough to start using drugs. Stop… it?
If you answered “C,” you wrote this movie!
“Hey, so, like, ignore bullies and… work on your personality, um… heroin sucks.”
Some nurse spits out clunky dialogue about how Cody is real, real sick and it’s not just the heroin (I’m assuming these are sex diseases from all her prostituting), but that doesn’t stop the fact that Art overlooks the most immediate part of the problem and jumps right to all the Butterfly Effect shit. An hour into the movie, after a bunch of pointless adventures through her past, he finally gets it in his head that maybe slapping the needle away from her is job one.
This guy can’t make a sandwich without visiting the wheat farmer first.
All of the running around in Cody’s formative years might be tolerable if it were entertaining or poignant, but it just comes across like the padding that it is. That junior high screencap up there shows Art trying to give Cody a tampon, because he thinks the day she was made fun of for having bloody shorts is the highway that sent her to Junkville. I just couldn’t figure out the tone they were going for; it was never awkward enough to be funny or charming enough to be endearing. It was just… there.
I’ll admit: the part where Art keeps trying to stop someone from committing suicide over and over is hilariously dark, but one great scene does not a movie make.
He’s telling a guy not to kill himself while covered in blood from his previous attempt. Brilliant.
The magical time travel rules are all over the goddamn place, and I’m not just talking about the mutable / immutable / alternate stuff that only nerdfaces like me care about, but, while we’re on the subject, fuck. Sometimes he runs into another version of himself. Other times, he gets to live the same moment over and over like Groundhog Day without any other Arts interfering. They even go to the trouble of opening the film with a few “get it, this will pay off later” gags, but those only work in an immutable timeline, which any kind of do-over, double-Art or not, is impossible in. Immutabullshit, you guys. Wait, unless–
–is this all in his mind?
Ha durrr, drugs, this movie’s so deeeeeeeep.
Great, I give even less of a shit, then.
I like Jay Baruchel. I really do. He’s very good at being weird, funny, and sweet at the same time, which is probably what the script should have done as well. Unfortunately, I don’t really buy him as a drug addict. For a homeless person, he’s too clean, too well-dressed, and too… happy.
“Ha ha, our lives are shit!”
Sarah Lind… hmm, I kind of have the same things to say about her, except I’ve never seen her in anything before. I actually think her and Baruchel have pretty great chemistry, this just wasn’t the right movie to put them in together. Also, she does spend a good amount of the runtime in a coma.
“You’re missing so much bad story logic and empty social commentary, Cody.”
Now, Art’s buddy Harvey, played by Jim Byrnes… he got it right. He’s optimistic despite living on the streets, but you still get the feeling he’s been through some pretty rough shit. He’s definitely the standout of the movie.
Kind of like a homeless Obi-Wan.
As of this writing, the Wikipedia page for Fetching Cody is a mere three sentences, one of which is entirely dedicated to pointing out that Canadian drag queen Robert Kaiser plays Sabrina. Robert’s incredibly brief performance is admirable, but not “one-third of an article” good.
Be honest, Robert, you edited that page, didn’t you?
THE SPECIAL EFFECTS:
I know what you’re thinking; a no-budget independent movie can’t have much in the way of flashy visuals. If you’re worried that the time machine is nothing more than a recliner covered in Christmas lights, excellent guess.
You can officially go fuck yourself, movie.
Yeah, maybe I buried the lead here, but this particular film’s chrono-ship is a festive Barcalounger that you talk to. And not, “17 minutes ago, please.” Art asks the time-chair to take him to before Cody “got all fucked up… when there were bullies and shit.” Then there’s a white flash, and presto! A lackluster voyage to the past based on a piece of furniture’s understanding of human development!
Rare behind-the-scenes footage of the chair’s conceptual– oh, no, still the movie.
Look, I’m not being a popcorn-muncher who only likes fast cars and big explosions here. I get it. It’s magic realism. The clearly fake look of the time machine creates ambiguity as to whether or not this is all just a fantasy in Art’s mind, and it also serves as a metaphor for the hopes and dreams of the less fortunate while poking fun at the typical aesthetics of science fiction films. *wanking motion* It’s also a cutesy gimmick to make the movie stand out on lengthy lists of time travel movies and indie flicks. “Get this… it’s literally a chair covered in Christmas lights!” When in doubt, quirk it out. It’s the indie way.
OTHER (SPOILERY) STUFF:
- Art tries to get into the hospital by claiming to be a doctor. He calls himself Dr. Smith, then Dr. Brown. Get it? Because this movie. Oh, and some random drug dealer reacts to Art’s news of a time machine with: “That’s heavy, man.” Yeah.
- There’s a red balloon floating around in a couple of scenes. When I looked on the IMDb page and immediately saw a forum post asking about what the red balloon symbolizes, I said, “Fuck you.” Pretty loudly.
- Ending spoiler: Art finally saves Cody by busting one of his own drug deals prior to their first meeting, thus preventing him from ever selling her heroin and ruining her life. Afterwards, Art has no memory of Cody, but also experiences zero ripple effects, but Harvey still remembers Cody… ah, fuck it. Anybody else getting tired of the “time traveler removes himself from the equation completely” trope? I won’t link to all of my reviews that end that way, but damn, it feels like an hour of our time is being wasted just for that “a-ha!” of going all the way back.
THE “NONE OF THIS MAKES ANY SENSE!” MOMENT:
Art spends the whole movie whining, “Why can’t I change anything?” but he breaks into a full scream when Harvey assures him that it’s possible to alter the past.
“It’s a bunch of bullshit! There’s nothin’ you can do about it! There’s… nothin’ anybody can do about it.
Naw… life sucks and then you die.”
Well, I can finally say with confidence that even time travel can’t make me enjoy addiction movies. Sure, the message behind them is usually admirable, and time travel is admittedly an interesting way to illustrate that you can’t just “undo” addiction, but the story of Fetching Cody is incredibly weak. It suffers from bizarre tone shifts, equal amounts of forced whimsy and pretension, and a protagonist whose decisions are just plain baffling, drug-addled brain or not. It takes a lot of work to get me to warm up to yet another movie about heroin, and the solution isn’t Smack to the Future.
Want more time travel? Head on over to the Time Out archive.