The One Part Of In Time That Makes No Sense

Goodness, that In Time, what a confusing movie. Not the plot, in particular. The plot revolves around Justin Timberlake and Amanda Seyfried, whose characters doubtless have names, living in a futuristic dystopia where the citizenry ages until 25, and then is forced to earn more time in order to continue living. The amount of time available is indicated by a constantly ticking set of numbers on their wrist. Justin Timberlake lives in the ghetto where people constantly “time out” and die. Accordingly, he thinks this might be a bad system. Amanda Seyfried is a wealthy girl with too much time on her hands who joins him in overthrowing the system because Sullivan’s Travels was a fun movie (fine, Justin Timberlake kidnaps her). Suffice to say, it’s Logan’s Run + Occupy Wall Street + Bonnie and Clyde + A passion for time puns (“your money or your life! Wait, I forgot – your money IS your life”). Here is the trailer:

Now, the most perplexing aspect of ‘In Time’ isn’t why the characters live only as long as the time clock built into their wrists dictates. It isn’t the fact that it is never explained how people opted to give up currency in favor of this system – given Vincent Kartheiser‘s presence as a man with a million years, we are left mostly assuming that advertising was very good to Pete Campbell (what an interesting last season of Mad Men we can look forward to). Nor is its most mystifying moment when the police see a suicide, shake their heads incredulously and say “you’re telling me this man was immortal and he wanted to die!?” and then pin the “crime” on Justin Timberlake. Nor the way every conversation the characters have relates to the way the system is set up and how they have a limited amount of time to live, despite, as Lady Gaga would doubtless point out, they were born that way. It’s not even how bizarre it is to see Olivia Wilde playing Justin Timberlake’s mom. We can brush all this aside with one ladylike sweep of our hands simply by saying “sometimes, shit gets weird”.

But it makes no sense that the people in the ghetto continue to wear the most beautiful clothing in the world when they keep dying because of how poor they are. 

For instance:

amanda seyfried justin timberlake in time

This is how poor people dress, the future is awesome.

This is the dress of a character who died because she did not have two hours to spare. With its delicate velvet Peter Pan Color, neat nipped waist and pleated skirt it looks as though it came from Prada.

Of course, we don’t know precisely how much clothing costs in the future. However, we do see Justin Timberlake buy a car which costs him 56 years. It’s a beautiful car. Perhaps we can assume the ratio of cost might be similar between cars and clothing as it is today. If an Aston Martin costs $200,000 and a dress from Prada costs $2,000 we can say that a similarly priced dress in time-future-world would cost .56 years, or 204 days. Of course, that would be impossible for anyone living in the ghetto to afford as a great to-do is made out of the fact that they generally awake with no more than 24 hours (this is a major plot point and is referenced constantly). However, it might be the offshoot of some futuristic designer’s capsule collection for future-H&M and the character might have waited all night for it. Fair. Let’s say it costs only $100 present dollars. That would work out to around 10 days. Let me reiterate – she dies because she does not have two hours to spare.

But as a once in a lifetime thing? Sure. Perhaps. Everyone might have one nice dress. Except this character – again, I cannot say this enough, she dies because she is very time poor – seemingly has tons of them. As she runs for her life she wears this really pretty red ribbed number that ties at the waist and looks like a Diane von Furstenberg.

Of course, we might simply assume that this was one particularly frivolous character. At the beginning of the movie she does reference being deeply in debt. It would eliminate a lot of her sympathetic qualities to say that she died because she was a complete clotheshorse but, well, stuff happens. It would certainly account for Justin Timberlake’s surprisingly abbreviated mourning period wherein he gets over his mother’s death after swilling some champagne at a nice hotel (he’s like Meursault, but not like him at all!).

But just about everyone we see in the ghetto is seemingly buying from the capsule Herve Leger collection if the scene at the bars is any indication. Alas, there is no picture of it, but take my word for it. Meanwhile, the best indication that the man at the mission is deeply impoverished (he points out that he is very poor and gives away everything) is that his suit is slightly poorly tailored.

That waistcoat fits nicely though

It might make sense to assume that in this futuristic dystopia the poor simply wear the shucked of clothing of the wealthy. That would account for those items being made out of great fabrics. Besides, it’s what the lower classes did for much of history. One of the reasons that fashion changed so quickly and so dramatically in 10 or 20 years periods (up until, well, the 1960′s, when everyone began wearing everything) was because the ability to keep up with fashion was indicative of social class. If you were a maid you might wear the 10 or 20 year old, hopelessly unfashionable cast-offs of your mistresss. Well and good. But, my goodness, those clothes the poor people are wearing certainly do look all nice and new.

Still, this makes sense insofar as the wealthy appear to wear tuxedos and evening gowns, even in the middle of the day. You can see this on the first picture of Amanda Seyfried, which I picked because it had a pretty yellow background that I thought would be eye-catching on the homepage. Or this:

What is he, a farmer?

Trends might have changed, and their old, sad cocktail party clothing might have been sent off to the needy. However, trends often change because new things are being worn by a younger generation. Janie Bryant, the costume designer, interestingly, for Mad Men once claimed that Bert Cooper wore a lot of bow ties and cardigans because people tend to continue being attracted to the styles that were popular when they were in college or their mid-twenties. [tagbox tag="Amanda Seyfried"]Vincent Kartheiser makes reference to the fact that he can’t remember a time when people aged normally, and he is around 100 years old. If we assume that what the Mad Men designer says is correct, he likely wears evening clothes all the time because he’s been wearing evening clothes for the past 75 years. So does his mother-in-law. There is, indeed, a newer younger generation, but it’s hard to tell given that they look just like their parents – but then, making up new fashions that appear flattering to your youthful frame might be more difficult when everyone looks the same.

Suffice to say, it seems likely that styles would evolve at a slower rate. While it’s believable that Olivia Wilde was wearing 10 year old, immaculately preserved cast-offs, it’s difficult to believe they’d have held up that well after 50 years (no fading? Really?).

The only explanation seems to be that the politicians of the future have adopted a bread and circuses approach to dealing with the populous where, in exchange for meekly accepting their miserable lot in life, the poor are plied with designer garments (and seemingly, tons of plastic surgery, free of cost). They die young, but they die in Prada. I believe a similar choice was presented to Achilles. Well, they die beautifully, anyway. The future is all lovely velvet Peter Pan collars, all the time. And now I am off to write a letter to my congressperson.

Share This Post:
    • Steph

      While I never even thought of that while I was watching the movie, I guess it is something to think about. I mean, the only thing I wondered was why time was now currency, but to each her own. I’m not much of a fashionista, so I wouldn’t have noticed if the clothes were designer or not, and the point is well made.

      However, it shouldn’t matter what the poor (whether they are real or movie poor) choose to spend their money on. It’s not really anyone’s place to comment on how others choose to spend their money on, and if people wanted to have a few nice pieces of clothing to make them feel better about living in a ghetto where they could die at any moment, so be it. I know it’s not real, but it always bothers me when people decide what the poor can and cannot buy.

      • Odbery

        I think the author meant that these people were supposedly too poor to be capable of buying the clothes they wear, and how it was an oversight by the wardrobe designers, not that it’s wrong for poor people to buy certain items.

    • Olivia

      On her birthday morning Olivia Wilde says shes doing a double shift in the Garment District…Which at the time I thought was a useless piece of information. Now, however, it has solved for me the Mystery-of-the-fancy-Prada-dress-that-she-just-has-hanging-in-the-closet.

    • fashionner
    • Lastword

      99 second store, so each second is a penny? A coffee is 4min so about $2.40 so that kinda makes sense. So, a bus ride goes from 36 to 72 bucks, that is one expensive ass bus ride.. . 118 years is about 37 million bucks and he gives his friend over 3 mill and he goes to drink, i’d flip out!

    • Jingo

      Can anyone tell me what coat Justin Timberlake is wearing in the second picture ? Or simply a general name(type) to this clothing part would be great.

    • Sarah

      The clothes look nice, but definitely not expensive! They look like the kind of thing you could pick up cheaply in an op shop even now. Both those dresses could be bought for around $20 in op shops in my town. and they live in the ghetto – not Ethiopia, they can afford clothes…

    • Kabir Narsai

      the car was 59 years not 56, the first of multiple errors here…
      think logically for a moment, considering the fact that they have lights built into their arms that are on all the time, we can assume that they have advanced significantly in terms of technology, for all you know, as a result of nanotechnology advancements, they can tailor make clothes in seconds for the price of air…

    • MRL

      Wow, the author of this article is how old? And, her editor allowed her to write such a
      ridiculous article? File her so-called writing alongside “reality” tv shows as it is as non-sensical and, with all due respect, just as “brainless” as those moronic shows. First of
      all, with all that can be said with regard to critiquing a film, this author is more concerned
      with the fact that the alleged “poor” are dressing well? Unbelievable that there are so
      many talented writers with so many good points and subject matter to bring out in their writings that would be intellectually stimulating and thought-provoking and we have someone of this mindset and caliber actually earning a paycheck with this junk!
      PS Obviously this author knows nothing of the lower echelon, i.e., poorer of the classes. Perhaps she should attend a social services facility one morning when those “without” are seeking assistance. She will note that the “poor” purposely seek out and wear the best they can afford to buy (yes, even on assistance), drive the best cars they can, then live in squalor called Section 8 housing with as many family members and/or friends they can in order to “share” the expenses and “stretch” their money and benefits.

      • anna

        it’s a joke piece, and she’s actually editor. Because she’s a good writer and business woman, and actually has a sense of humor. Unlike you