The Time-Journalist - a potential big-budget film idea

posted: 10 August, 2011
Refactored from last night's dream.  I'm putting this idea out there - for free!

Our hero: a hunky, famous American TV reporter.  Not a behind-the-desk anchor, necessarily, but an "in the field" guy.  He's fearless, witty, and I'm thinking best played by Jon Hamm.  But despite his fame, wealth and success, our hero is sad.  He's lonely.  He's tried supermodels, politicians, actresses, and atheletes, but no one is right for him.  It's even starting to affect his work - his nightly reports, delivered from the frontlines of horrible war-torn places and the inner sanctums of heretofore-untouchable public figures - have been infused with an innate sorrow.

Then, time travel is invented! It's neither easy nor cheap (being controlled, of course, by the potentially sinister company, Big Chronos), and it must follow strict I, Robot-style rules to prevent time-chaos like in every other time travel film.  But due to our hero's fame and talents, he begins to innovate the field of time-journalism.  Maybe he's not the first, but he's the best; but by excelling in this, he has even less time to find Mrs. Right.

For whatever reason he goes back to the 19th century or so - I'm thinking the time of Andrew Jackson -- to work on a story.  And it's there he falls in love with a woman from the past - one who is not necessarily drop-dead gorgeous but satisfies his soul.  I'm thinking Rebecca Hall for this.  And of course, this violates a crucial rule of time-travel.

And from here, we can go in several directions, but all of them are bleak.  Screenwriters, take your pick!
  1. Absolute emotional tragedy -- these two people love each other but cannot really be together because of, perhaps --
    • The time-journalism technology is actually only some sort of hologram/simulation, so our hero cannot actually touch or interact in the flesh, which renders their lovemaking a vaguely awkward bit of frustrated thrusting, bashing into walls and closet doors because of closed eyes, trying to break through the temporal-tactile barrier, etc. where our plot takes us to, possibly --
      • in some horrible accident, these frantic Ghost-like attempts to physically connect lead to violent impairment, from the battering and bruising, to the point of death even; or --
      • in some Groundhog Day-like bit of movie magic, these characters are able to transcend the limitations of the non-physical, and our hero actually reaches a corporeal state in the past, whereas they consummate their relationship (and, to preserve the tragic twist, if the screenwriter desires, they are both horribly disappointed by the sex [he perhaps because he is expecting more, and she is conforming to the mid-19th century ideas of intercourse; her disappointment comes because he's just not a very good lay] and furthermore the hero's transformation into past-occupying flesh and blood renders it impossible for him to ever return to our present day, at which point he realises that he's actually very much a shallow vapid celebrity fuckwit and he misses his iPad and spends his remaining life in the 1830's trying to invent the IP address; or --
      • In an even more twisted take on the non-tactile relationship concept, one inspired by dark body horror like Cronenberg et al, the heroine could fall into a state of psychosis and begin to create surrogate bodies to replace the hero's physical state.  This could get into kidnapping and even murder, and the hero would go along with this, desperate to please her, thus raising some tired issues of time-travel ethics as well as creating many disturbing scenes of Rebecca Hall trying to mount a chloroformed hobo while the spirit-apparition of Jon Hamm stares in manic frustration;
    • Or, this isn't the case, and the time-journalist is perfectly capable of touching, feeling and fucking as much as anyone else.  So instead of focusing on the physical relationship, a more PG-13 oriented screenwriter could instead twist the emotional knife by addressing the false promise of 150-year-old love.  Our hero, again, this has to be Jon Hamm, so desperate for something that modern romance can't offer him, falls in love with Rebecca Hall or whomever, and commits fully to a serious relationship, let's say also forsaking the ability to return to the present (which also makes it easy, plot-wise).  But as the film goes on, he quickly discoveres that being in a relationship with a woman born a century before your parents isn't so easy; once the infatuation wears off, the everyday reality sets in and both characters find it difficult to relate to one another.  She cannot understand his job as she cannot even fathom the concept of television; he, likewise, has difficulty adjusting to a world without as much technology -- and, let's hold true to the idea that the guy is a bit of a fuckwit - he starts to stray a bit from their commitment, first indulging in a little high society sexual hijinks but then eventually descending into the nebulous depths of brothels and other dark areas.  And remember, safe sex isn't really on the radar here.  And so, this plays out as a horrible dung heap of misery for both parties. 
  2. Or instead -- total sci-fi madness!  Cause, let's face it, we've already got time-travel in here, so we can take on a bit of the La jetée approach and implode the future world or something like that.  Let's say he has the ability to bring her back, and he convinces her that she desperately needs to come back to the future and exist in a world of electronics, plastics and Twitter, so they do this; at which point tragedy can strike again, perhaps because --
    • Our heroine, or at least we can say "female lead", being an adult woman from a time with far different airborne bacteria, sanitation standards, and other disease-spheres -- she instantly contracts polio, scarlet fever, or some other all-but-eradicated disease that is probably on every surface of our contemporary, inoculated/vaccinated existence.  If she doesn't just straight-up die, which would drive our hero to utter madness, then she will at least suffer in some extremely depraved way and our hero will find his investment in their love-based relationship under strain, where from here you can factor in any of the options from pathway 1 above; or --
    • In classic time-travel style, hero is unaware that heroine is somehow a necessary step in the creation of his own birthline, so he somehow wipes out his own existence; or --
    • Of course, building logarithmically on the previous option, their disruption of the time-travel rules (which of course are very much strictly enforced by Big Chronos, for obvious reasons, which would also add a thrilling suspense/action sequence in the middle as they must find ways to sneak her to the future, which could be slightly more Dystopian than our actual present [though I do think the emphasis should be still on electronics, plastics and Twitter - market capitalist democracy at its fullest, of course] and involve fights, chases, bribes and/or trapeezes) not only wipes out the hero's own existence but actually alters the world entirely, perhaps for the better, but most likely for the worst; or --
    • Maybe the violation of Big Chronos's time-travel rules will actually lead to the implosion of the entire world in some sort of negative reality inversion!

Regardless of which forking path is taken, the moral remains that the pursuit of ones dreams is ultimately selfish and only inflicts pain and suffering in others, whether that other is the woman herself (who I can't seem to picture as anything but a victim in most of these scenarios), the entire human race, or at the very least the TV network that employed the hero to go back and interview Andrew Jackson, or whatever they trusted him to do before he frittered away his time chasing Second Great Awakening Tail.  Of course, I mean this moral to only be applicable to super-rich beautiful celebrity-type people; a subtext (surely to be inserted by a deft screenwriter) would be that regulars and normals should pursue their dreams without hesitation!