Jamie Greenberg’s “Future ’38” has a particularly stylized approach. It is jokingly advertised as a recovered print of a film that was lost 80 years ago. Beliefs from the past and truths from today comedically clash and blend. The subtle satire ensues when American Secret Agent Jack Essex must journey from 1938 to New York City in 2018. Jack’s mission is to retrieve a secret weapon that will prevent World War II. Upon arriving in New York, Jack finds much more than he could have imagined; hijinks, romance, espionage and realizations about American society in the 21st century surround his absurd mission .
“Future ‘38” is an ironic homage to the films of Jack’s time, transitioning from black-and-white to color as he enters the future, openly winking at “The Wizard of Oz.” The tongue-in-cheek performances effectively capture and parody classic Hollywood. The direction, camerawork and editing — down to the transitions — reflect the styles of the past, further emphasizing the comedic awareness and presentation of the film.
The film’s true talent is in its writing. Genuine, straight-from-the-gut, laugh-out-loud moments, bits of banter, quips and sharp wordplay pack the script. This is where the actors truly shine, conveying the subtleties and on-the-nose moments with charming sincerity. Even beyond the humor, the story has a timelessness about it. The mystery-solving, dynamic duo and classic American heroics tropes all work within the story. The fresh concepts mix well with the traditional elements and contribute substantially to the film’s comedic elements.
Still, “Future ‘38” does not fully capitalize on the opportunity for extreme satire that it was given. This time-leaping film has a genuine reason to push the envelope with criticisms of contemporary politics and social structures that it fails to utilize.
The film’s dense dialogue detracts from the viewing experience. As quickly and fluidly as the characters communicate, a few jokes and statements were indecipherable — sometimes because of the fast-paced classic Hollywood speech and sometimes because the dialogues continued without a beat.
The writing is believably voiced in a modern context with today’s colloquialisms and euphemisms mixed in. But for the modern audience, some lines are too specific or too dated to be understood. This is a difficult aspect to criticize because by including references to the past, the film stays true to itself and does not deviate from the story being told and the message being communicated.
“Future ‘38” has a timely release, commenting on the world, then and now, with value for all generations — past, present or future. It is a solid example of the ingenuity and mettle required of independent filmmakers, proving that even old, simple stories can be great fun with the right people behind the camera.
“Future ‘38” opened at Videology Cinema at 308 Bedford Ave. on Friday, Dec. 1.
Email Tristen Calderon at [email protected].