Love Movie

Molli and Max in the Future

Throughout history, across centuries and cultures, human beings have been preoccupied with a few basic questions: Why am I here? What can I do to make a difference? Will anyone ever love me? (To be fair, for most of it finding enough to eat and not dying in a plague trumped all of that but stay with me here.) And, given the consistency with which we’ve collectively fretted over these problems, it follows that humans will still be obsessed with finding love and meaning 1,000 years from now. 

This is the basic idea behind “Molli and Max in the Future,” a sci-fi rom-com that takes “When Harry Met Sally” and rockets it into an undefined far-future world where tentacled demigods lead sex cults and parallel universes are accessible via an old-fashioned phone handset. Given the film’s modest budget, in practice this means placing leads Zosia Mamet and Aristotle Athari in front of green screens and having them exchange witticisms about made-up technologies, a strategy that works far better than it should. 

Molli (Mamet) and Max’s (Athari) meet-cute is about as quirky as they get: She swerves to avoid a chaotic jumble of space debris while out hunting magic crystals in her flying car, he crash-lands on her windshield in an old-fashioned astronaut suit, he guilts her into taking him into the city for a robot fight, they keep hanging out afterwards. But the romantic tension between them never leads to anything, and soon larger concerns—the chip on his shoulder, her quest for spiritual enlightenment—separate them, at least temporarily. 

The film is divided into chapters, in the style of its inspiration; it’s set over the course of 12 years, also in imitation of Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron’s rom-com classic. (The interstitial interviews are missing here.) Their path to realization, self- and otherwise, is winding and full of diversions: Familiar comedic actors like Aparna Nancherla, Matteo Lane, and Arturo Castro pop in and out of the narrative, as do fantastical locations that are named-dropped as casually as if they were exits on the New Jersey Turnpike. (One of the funnier jokes of this type is the Quantum Zone, a dimension spun off from a popular podcast.) 

It’s all either whimsically charming or annoyingly cute, depending on your temperament. The thing that keeps the film from spinning out into the atmosphere (literally or figuratively, your choice) is the chemistry between Mamet and Athari. On the whole, Mamet gives the more dynamic performance; her character’s angst feels both specific and universal in a way that reads as broadly, quintessentially human. But the all-important back-and-forth is easy and unforced, making it feel like these are actually two friends who might one day become lovers—if they can ever get over themselves.

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