The 1993 movie Groundhog Day, which starred Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, is so well-known and has been seen by just about everybody. The story about a man who relives the same day over and over again is intriguing, but the idea of someone else making a movie about a similar theme would seem destined to fail. However, that is not the case with the new teen comedy/adventure/drama film, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things.
Based on the short story of the same name by Lev Grossman (who also wrote The Magicians) and directed by Ian Samuels, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things appears on Amazon Prime Video. It follows the teen drama Chemical Hearts but surpasses that film in many ways. True, Perfect Things also features two lead actors in their mid-twenties playing `17-year-olds, but this time around, they actually talk and act like teenagers with a storyline that parents will appreciate as well.
The movie begins simple enough. Mark (Kyle Allen) comes downstairs to find his father Daniel (Josh Hamilton) and younger sister Emma (Cleo Fraser) eating breakfast. The scene appears normal, but something is odd. His mother is not there. She has already left for work. He is unmoved by Emma calling him a loser. Probably because he hears that every day. But Mark already seems to know what his dad is going to say as well. And he knows exactly when the toast is going to pop up. Mark goes outside, hops on his bike and begins a seemingly normal bike ride except he twists and turns nearly missing oncoming cars. He’s clearly been here before.
Mark is stuck in a time loop reliving the same day over and over again. There is no explanation for it. It just is what it is. While stuck here, Mark decides that he wants to make the world a better place, so he goes around town helping people with simple tasks like helping people not to trip. In one case, he tries to intercept a beach ball from hitting a pretty girl at the local pool which would knock her into the pool. We get to see that it took many days of trying to get this just right. Then one day, his plan is ruined by a mystery girl who catches the beach ball instead. Intrigued, Mark follows and meets this girl, Margaret (Kathryn Newton) and discovers that she too is stuck in a time loop but fails to ask the question, “Who names their daughter Margaret in this day and age?”
Margaret is chatty but standoffish. And now Mark has a new reason to live. And tracking down this mystery girl every day is a lot harder to do than he thinks. Eventually though, the two end up spending more “time” together and try to find all of the perfect little things in their hometown. However, every day, Margaret gets a phone call and then leaves their conversation abruptly never explaining why.
So, the story is sort of a mystery. Most of the tale is told from Mark’s point of view. We learn that his father has left his job to write the next great American novel about the civil war. He never sees his mother since she leaves for work before he wakes up. There is some obvious tension between his parents. The film only shows the story from Margaret’s point of view a couple of times and like Mark, we don’t know much about this girl. However, the two eventually plot together to find a solution to getting out of this time loop that their trapped in.
Although overly long and overly chatty, Perfect Things is a good film. It tells messages about valuing the simple everyday things around us. It also explores the opposite. These teens can do whatever they want knowing that there will be no real consequences after their slates are wiped clean at the end of each day. In a sense, they have ultimate freedom and ironically, they discover that when one has ultimate freedom, one loses a sense of purpose. Pretty deep stuff for a teen flick.
Perfect Things is refreshing in many ways. The guy pursues the girl. The guy respects the girl. Their love story is fueled by friendship first. There is little swearing, no politically correct messages and no sex scenes. There is one scene that I didn’t appreciate though. The two teens decide to drink beers together. They are so casual about it as they have clearly done this before. I understand that underage drinking is real and very common in our society, but do we really need Hollywood to keep pushing this “normalcy” in their films? At least they don’t get drunk.
It takes a long time to get there, but Perfect Things has an ending that is worthwhile to see. The film is filled with a lot of gobble gook nonsense, but you’ll see that the journey along the way is a metaphor about growing up and adjusting from young adult to adulthood. Who wouldn’t want the world to just stop every now and then?
Main Image: Amazon Studios
I write about pop culture, arts and entertainment in the greater Seattle area.