Starring John Lithgow. Rated PG
A feel-good movie for the End Times, The Tomorrow Man starts with an intriguing premise and a can’t-miss cast, but never quite decides what it wants to say.
John Lithgow is Ed Hemsler, a lonely retiree who spends his free time on conspiratorial message boards, listening to talk radio, and shopping for the apocalypse. Instead of hitting CostCo like a normal survivalist, he buys small batches of nonperishables at a rural supermarket. (The setting appears to be the Midwest but it’s actually upstate New York.)
One day, he notices an attractive older woman (Blythe Danner) with similar purchase patterns and starts stalking her in adorable ways.
Turns out that Danner’s widowed Ronnie Meisner has some dysfunctions that are fairly complementary to Ed’s. He’s a neat freak with a secret bunker, built to withstand the coming collapse of civilization; she’s a garden-variety hoarder with social anxieties. Awwww.
Transitioning to features after directing music videos for Taylor Swift, Keith Urban, and others, first-time writer-director Noble Lincoln Jones has a craftsman’s eye for details that give texture to little lives. But he’s pretty fuzzy on their substance.
The seasoned leads ham it up while hammering home Grand Themes.
At one point, stoical Ed even refers to “the world, the flesh, and the devil”, alluding to both the Bible and a 1959 movie with Harry Belafonte and Inger Stevens as the only survivors of a nuclear war. But the dialogue mostly feels maddeningly unspecific.
Ed’s rants, some aimed at his long-suffering adult son (Derek Cecil), are just random sputters about what will happen when the SHTF—the shit hits the fan.
Of course, the S has already hit the F, environmentally speaking, but Ed doesn’t care about that, judging from the thousands of tiny plastic bottles in his bunker.
For her part, Ronnie is saddled with shorthand foibles, like a long-dead daughter and a quirky interest in Second World War documentaries.
The cutesy twosome also share an almost pathological love for the ’70s tune “Muskrat Love”. Early on, Ed declares them on the “wrong side of 60”. But it feels more like they completely missed the ’60s.