starring Tunde Adebimpe, Natalia Verbeke, Hippolyte Girardot, Patricia Mauceri
written and directed by Joel Hopkins
by Walter Chaw An unlikely romance, an unlikely road movie, and an unlikely buddy picture all in one that somehow works (and with a surplus of charm and sweetness), Joel Hopkins's debut feature Jump Tomorrow could be described as either Harold Lloyd by way of Jacques Tati or Jim Jarmusch by way of Thirties screwball. Or just simply "fantastic." It is hopelessly romantic and subversively funny, a Being There-esque collection of guileless characters left to interact in ways that are so nobly old-fashioned and innocent, it takes a good half-hour before we realize that Jump Tomorrow doesn't have a baseball bat clutched in the hand behind its back. It doesn't have a hand behind its back at all.
George (Tunde Adibimpe, who created his character in a student short by Hopkins) is a grey-suited travel agent of Nigerian descent, stiff and uncomfortable in his own skin. Bound by a duty to his long-dead parents, George shows up at the airport one day to pick up his arranged bride--one day too late, so it happens, leading to poor, awkward George being invited to a party by vivacious Alicia (Natalia Verbeke, a ringer for Pénélope Cruz, except she's beautiful and can act), and lovelorn Frenchman Gerard (Hippolyte Girardot) befriending him. With Gerard desperate to help George find his destiny (thereby distracting him from his own crushing disappointments in the marriage department), the two take off in a Citroen named "L'Amour" on a road trip to Niagara Falls, the once love/now suicide capital of the United States.
The title Jump Tomorrow refers to a moment early on where George talks Gerard out of leaping from a building by suggesting that he put it off for a day; it also alludes to the decision of a rigid man to make an expansive romantic gesture. George, you see, has fallen in love with Alicia, and though he's to be married in three days and though she's involved with a rather tiresome Brit (James Wilby), there's an inexpressible spark between the two that's represented at the start and the end by the appearance of a ladybug. It's just that kind of movie.
Tunde Adibimpe is exceptional as a man defined by the crease in his inseam and the squareness of his double-Windsor. His deadpan struggle to tap a wellspring of life in the midst of a moribund routine recalls not only the great Lloyd, but also Buster Keaton's deeply expressive stone-face. A classmate of Hopkins's from NYU specializing in claymation, Adibimpe demonstrates his gift for coaxing life from the lifeless by subtly guiding George from cubicle drone to a literally dashing hero. Gerardot and Verbeke, the most promising young actors from the French and Spanish cinema (both making their English-language debut), offer instantly affecting and wonderfully rich performances. Each seem to have an innate, almost transparent, understanding of their characters' tragedies and dreams, leading me to believe that credit for the success of the performances lies largely with the casting savvy of writer-director Joel Hopkins.
With a hilarious mod dance party, a wonderfully relaxed and warm visit with Alicia's family, brief and brilliant moments of technical whimsy, and a pitch-perfect series of reversals and well-earned resolutions in its closing minutes, Jump Tomorrow moves to the beat of its own fluently metered drum. In telling its admittedly slight fairytale, it manages to avoid the gaping indie pitfalls of preciousness and message, allowing its multinational cast (not a one of whom is a white American male) to interact like friends and lovers in ways that are utterly faithful to the film's cocktail sensibilities.
Jump Tomorrow is so cunningly underwritten and gently performed that even the appearance of a bombshell call girl named "Heather Leather" ("It's just my name when I'm working") can't derail the movie's beguiling geniality. It made me lean over and kiss my wife. I loved Jump Tomorrow not for its craft (which is considerable), nor for its acting (which is tremendous), but for a heart that beats with wisdom and warmth and nary a trace of contrivance or sticky manipulation. A heart that thumps proudly on Joel Hopkins's sleeve. Originally published: October 31, 2001.