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Last Year's Birds

[whitespace] Twice Upon a Yesterday
Turning Back the Hands of Time: Douglas Henshall and Lena Headey take a second try at love in 'Twice Upon a Yesterday.'

Squishy 'Twice Upon a Yesterday' has everything except mimes

By Richard von Busack

THE NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL was excluded from the hit film Notting Hill, which is a disappointment. However, the failed, oversugared romance Twice Upon a Yesterday has footage of the London carnival--and very little else. Douglas Henshall plays a guttery English actor named Bukowski--as if! Actually, he isn't just supposed to be a marauder like the Los Angeles poet, he's also supposed to be "the new Brando." As the story begins, it's been seven months since Bukowski cheated his way out of his relationship with Sylvia (Lena Headey). On a deserted street, at the end of a long drinking binge, Bukowski encounters two quixotic pixie garbage men who magically turn back the hands of time so that he can keep Sylvia. But Fate, once cheated, interferes and sets matters as they were.

The moral of the story, quoted on screen, is from Cervantes: "Don't look for last year's birds in this year's nests." Exactly! Why try to recreate the squishy romantic comedies of yesteryear, drenching them with watered-down hipness, instead of searching for something new? The film's premise is workable; certainly it reflects a wish that every lost lover has had at one point or another. But the magical-realist glaze on this film takes the sting out of the story. This frankly dippy film was directed by first-timer Maria Ripoll; the script is by the songwriter and novelist Rafa Russo, who is apparently Argentina's answer to Paul Auster. Twice Upon a Yesterday doesn't actually have mimes in it, but it's often a close call. The fetching Penelope Cruz ornaments a charmless cast, but she only appears in the last third of this film; the pretty actress is squandered, mooning for a clod.

Twice Upon a Yesterday (R; 92 min.), directed by Maria Ripoll, written by Rafa Russo, photographed by Javier G. Salmones and starring Lena Headey and Douglas Henshall.

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From the June 10-16, 1999 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 1999 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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