Hey party people. If you’re not familiar with this feature, what we do is recommend things to you, new or old, that we’ve been into lately and think are worth your time. TV shows, films, books, podcasts, games, music, and more are on the table here. Whatever our writers want to recommend in a given week. This week, Christopher is rewatching Timeless and Paul recommends Don’t Make Me Go.
TV Recommendation: Timeless
Christopher Lieberman: This week I have been rewatching Timeless—I loved the show when it first came out, but I had forgotten what a delight it is. It was co-created by Supernatural‘s Eric Kripke and has a similar monster-of-the-week type structure, except the “monster” in each episode is a different historical catastrophe. The main characters (Lucy, Wyatt, and Rufus) are chasing an outlaw who has stolen a time machine. With a shadowy organisation called Rittenhouse (not dissimilar from the Syndicate in The X-Files, I might add) looming over them, their mission becomes more difficult and morally complex with every trip they make. Timeless takes the viewer on a whistle-stop tour of US history—Ian Fleming and Harry Houdini are among the many iconic figures depicted—while cultivating satisfying character arcs for the leads. If you’re a history buff and you like will-they-won’t-they romances and tragic backstories, this might be the show for you. It’s funny, it’s poignant, the soundtrack rocks…I think everybody should give Timeless a try.
Film Recommendation: Don’t Make Me Go
Paul Keelan: Teenagers love the romantic specter of death. It is thus of no surprise that Y/A books and movies are saturated with sappy, morbid underpinnings that often feel contrived, histrionic, and forced. Recently, I’ve begun to regain sympathy toward these emotionally turgid storylines by contextualizing terminal illness movies as genuine teenage fantasies. For me, they’ve become a quixotic extenuation of a very specific adolescent psyche—a mindset stuck in fatalistic, hormonal overdrive, and craving attention by way of the most bombastic narrative gestures imaginable.
Death, in such fantasies, works as an abstract antidote for adolescent monotony, indeterminacy, and restriction—instilling a sense of gravitas and exigency to the lived-in moment. It invokes bravery and passion. It catalyzes action. Furthermore, the inverse of a teenager’s notion of death is not just life, but a life lived spontaneously—freely. For many American kids, this notion of self-liberation and extemporaneous living is synonymous with leaving town. Don’t Make Me Go innocently taps into this ardent-hearted spirit and tradition, but with a twist—tossing a gun-shy, world-weary father into the mix. Thus, what we get is a cross-country road trip of generational conflict—with the passions, yearnings, and responsibilities of two very different demographic horizons, confined to a single trajectory.
This setup, of course, has played out many times before in dozens of movies. These are all derivative plot points and tropes. To elevate the clichés within a formulaic genre entry, the filmmaking team must go beyond the template—they must establish settings and moods that feel contemporary and fresh. Don’t Make Me Go succeeds at revitalizing its hackneyed qualities, in fits—primarily due to a few basic decisions. It has a nice assemblage of poignant pit stops (a smoky jazz club, a New Mexico casino, a nocturnal water tower in Texas during a meteor shower). It has a killer indie soundtrack (The Strokes, Girl in Red, Devonté Hynes, Chicano Batman)—good tunes are always essential for any teenage audience. And most importantly, it has inspired and unorthodox casting choices (at least for its usually whitewashed subgenre).
John Cho and Mia Isaac are extremely likable and dynamic throughout, despite a clumsy nude beach opening sequence and a most maudlin finish. They have enough chemistry and charisma to make us forget we’ve seen each scene and beat a hundred times before. Mia Isaac exudes wisdom and rebelliousness, maturity and naivety, with a credible demeanor and self-assured comportment. She holds the camera’s gaze. John Cho, meanwhile, lifts the movie above its leaden familiarity. He has clearly graduated from taking stoner quests to White Castle and is steadily becoming one of the most effective movie dads in the melancholic indie movie market. Apparently, some dudes do grow up.
You can find Don’t Make Me Go streaming on Amazon Prime.