What would you get if you could put When Harry Met Sally in a box with your favorite sci-fi movies and shake them all up? Two possible results from such an experiment screened at this year’s SXSW Conference, which ran for its 37th year, March 10-19, in Austin, Texas. Molli And Max in the Future and If You Were the Last both had their world, or perhaps I should say galactic, premieres at SXSW. The two films take different sci-fi tropes and run with them in crazy, fun ways.
As I watched Molli And Max in the Future, I kept flashing to the world of Blade Runner. But that was only one of the amazing motifs folded into this romantic tale. This boy-meets-girl story stars Zosia Mamet as the girl and Aristotle Athari as the boy. If the name “Mamet” rings a bell inside your movie-fan brain, yes, Zosia is the daughter of David Mamet of Wag the Dog, Hannibal, and Glengarry Glen Ross fame.
Zosia Mamet, whom you may remember as Kaley Cuoco’s BFF on The Flight Attendant, plays Molli, a young woman seeking to steer her way through a confusing universe. And the first thing she does is steer her spaceship into a collision with one piloted by Max.
Athari, who has been racking up TV credits on The Coop and Saturday Night Live, does an amazing job evolving his character. As the story progresses, he goes from space hippie to a clean-cut celebrity with a galaxy of followers.
The story of Molli and Max extends over 12 years. They meet, kind of connect, and don’t see each other for five years. This repeats. Over the course of the story, Molli becomes entangled in a space cult controlled by an alien. The Molli-Max relationship extends over multiple planets and environments.
The sci-fi elements do more, however, than provide pretty backgrounds. They become catalysts for the very human crises through which Molli and Max travel.
Lost in Space Love
The second premiere, If You Were the Last, takes viewers not quite so far into the future. Two astronauts, Adam, played by Anthony Mackie (Avengers: Quantum Encounter), and Jane, played by Zoë Chao (Where’d You Go, Bernadette), stranded on a spaceship, debate their future.
Their ship has broken down and floats somewhere between Jupiter and Saturn. They find ways to pass the time. Adam plants crops and takes care of the ship’s chickens and goat. Jane attempts to repair the ship’s computer system, the failure of which caused the problem.
Adam and Jane have no choice but to spend a lot of time together. They even argue over which movie to watch next. I laughed when they brought up the movie titled The Martian, the Matt Damon film about an astronaut stranded in space.
Finally, Adam pops the question. Maybe they should extend their time-passing activities to making love. This begins a debate, complicated by the fact that they both have significant others back on earth.
The ensuing discussions, decisions, and ultimate consequences make for a charming story, grounded in the Hollywood rom-com tradition.
So, move over When Harry Met Sally. You have competition from these two far-out rom-coms.
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