Long Story Short is occasionally pretty to look at but otherwise gruelingly repetitive and dull.
From the guy that played Kano in this year’s Mortal Kombat reboot comes Long Story Short, an Australian romantic comedy that basically takes the third act of Adam Sandler’s Click and stretches it to feature length, with the final product about as successful as all of that would imply. Rafe Spall stars as Teddy, the type of guy who never seizes the day and puts everything off until some undetermined “later.” In a meet-cute so nauseating that barf bags should be handed out to viewers along with their ticket purchase, Teddy accidentally kisses Leane (Zahra Newman) at a New Year’s Eve party, mistaking her for his girlfriend because they are both wearing the same dress, and making Teddy the dumbest man on the planet. Thing is, Leane was unfortunately eating pralines at the time, and Teddy is deathly allergic to nuts, and so viewers are quickly afforded some EpiPen shenanigans to accompany this meeting. To recap, this is all within the first two minutes of the film. Jump ahead four years, and Teddy and Leane are finally to be married, but not before running into a mysterious older woman (Noni Hazlehurst) who gifts Teddy a seemingly innocuous tin can. But as Teddy soon discovers, this tin can magically transport him one year into the future each time he wakes up, specifically to the day of his anniversary. He has no knowledge of what has transpired in the past 364 days, leading him to the shocking revelation that he must appreciate his loved ones and live each day to the fullest, because time is short.
At only 94 minutes, Long Story Short still feels like an eternity, thanks to a structure that is the very definition of repetition. In the early going, Teddy is unable to understand what exactly is happening, so most of the story involves him desperately trying to find his bearings, a detail that is certainly understandable and pragmatic but also enervating to endure. Each new day — or more precisely, year — finds Teddy simply trying to play catch-up, attempting to piece together just how he so badly fucked up his life. The metaphor is obvious, something that even a film as broad as Click figured out and understood to limit to 20 minutes. The majority of Long Story Short consists of Spall standing around making wry observations to himself, some of which are amusing, but most of which are obnoxious. Spall and Newman are at least quite likeable actors, offering periodic respite from the narrative’s drudgery, with Newman especially bringing a surprising amount of emotional heft to a role that is sorely underwritten. Comedian Ronny Chieng also pops up for a few brief scenes as Teddy’s best friend, and he offers further reprieve, ably fulfilling his comedic duties and becoming the best part of the movie (pro tip: more Chieng, less of the rest). Meanwhile, writer-director Josh Lawson does nothing of much interest visually, save for a final five-minute stretch where Lawson gets to flex with a single unbroken shot as Teddy finally realizes the error of his ways; long takes are admittedly old hat and usually misused at this point, but it’s actually a nice touch as realized here. Plus, the New South Wales setting offers plenty of stunning imagery, but so do any number of 30-minute specials on The Travel Channel, and they’re far less demanding affairs. Long story short, if you are in the mood for some romance and a few laughs, you can do better than this repetitive and grueling film.
Published as part of Before We Vanish | July 2021.