Review: ‘Time Is Up’ (2021), starring Bella Thorne and Benjamin Mascolo

October 3, 2021

by Carla Hay

Benjamin Mascolo and Bella Thorne in “Time Is Up” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Time Is Up” (2021)

Directed by Elisa Amoruso

Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed U.S. city and in Italy, the romantic drama “Time Is Up” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: At an unnamed high school, a “good girl” who’s an aspiring physicist falls for a “bad boy” who’s a rising star on the school’s swim team, even though she already has a boyfriend who’s on the same swim team.

Culture Audience: “Time Is Up” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching cliché-ridden, badly acted dramas about teenagers.

Sebastiano Pigazzi and Bella Thorne in “Time Is Up” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Time Is Up” is an example of what happens when filmmakers think that all you need for a romantic drama are some pretty actors and a scenic trip to Italy. It’s too bad they forgot about actually making a good movie. This substandard film is like being in a car wreck of teen drama clichés. And that’s not just because the movie actually does have a car wreck, which causes the female protagonist to experience amnesia soon after she has fallen in love with someone new.

“Time Is Up” is also one of those movies that has a trailer that gives away 85% of the plot, including the amnesia part of the story that doesn’t happen until the last third of the movie. There’s only one plot twist in the movie that isn’t in the trailer: It involves a secret same-sex affair of two people whose reputations would be ruined if the secret got out.

“Time Is Up” director Elisa Amoruso co-wrote the movie’s atrocious screenplay with Lorenzo Ura and Patrizia Fiorellini. The movie attempts to go for the tone of an epic romance, but in reality, “Time Is Up” is a cheesy teen soap opera. One of the movie’s biggest flaws is in its casting: The main actors who portray high schoolers look too old to be in high school.

We’ve seen this formula too many times before: A “good girl” in high school falls for a brooding “bad boy.” If he goes to the same school, he’s usually a new student who’s a mysterious and troubled loner. There’s usually some obstacle that prevents them from getting together right away. (The obstacle is usually a love triangle.) And so, the would-be couple will spend a lot of screen time pouting and eyeing each other lustfully before one of them makes the first move.

“Time Is Up” is a parade of pouting by cast members who know how to look sullen and bored more than they know how to act. Vivien (played by Bella Thorne) is in her last year in high school in an unnamed U.S. city. She’s an aspiring physicist (with a preference for quantum physics), who spouts this laughable, pseudo-physics mumbo jumbo in a voiceover narration in the beginning of the film:

“In the void, pairs of particles are continuously created. Their only destiny is to meet and disappear into each other. When two particles that have interacted with each other are separated, they are no longer distinct particles. The same thing happens when two people fall in love. Even when life pulls them apart, they’ll always carry a trace of the other person inside.”

As soon as you hear this silly schmaltz, you know you’re going to have to brace yourself for more as this movie plods to its very predictable end. Vivien attends an unnamed private high school, where most of the students come from privileged families. Her boyfriend Steve (played by Sebastiano Pigazzi) is a star of the school’s male swim team. Vivien has a sassy best friend (played by Bonnie Baddoo), who seems to be just a token character because the filmmakers never bothered to give her character a name.

Also on the school’s swim team is a new student named Roy (played by Benjamin Mascolo), a heavily tattooed rebel who lives in a trailer park. Roy has a swimming scholarship to attend the school. He has the talent to be the best swimmer on the team. Roy was born in Italy and moved to the U.S. with his family when he was in middle school, so he still has an Italian accent.

But when Vivien and her best friend attend a swim practice, it looks like Roy could be putting his scholarship in jeopardy. Roy has been slacking off during practice, so he gets yelled at by the team’s coach Dylan (played by Nikolay Moss). Dylan warns Roy that if Roy doesn’t improve, Roy won’t be chosen for the swim team’s competitions, and he could lose his scholarship.

Roy shouts back at Dylan: “What are you? My dad? I already have one! I fucking hate him!” Meanwhile, Steve smirks nearby when he sees this conflict between Roy and Dylan, because Steve wants to be considered the team’s best swimmer. Steve feels somewhat threatened that Roy (who’s a better swimmer) could outshine Steve on the team.

One day, Steve, Vivien and Vivien’s best friend are riding in Steve’s car when Roy becomes the topic of the conversation. Vivien’s best friend thinks that Roy is very attractive, and she mentions that she wouldn’t mind having a one-night stand with Roy. She asks Steve for more information about Roy. Steve says that Roy mostly keeps to himself.

Vivien and Steve seem to have a solid relationship on the outside. But lately, Steve has been very preoccupied and doesn’t have time for Vivien in the way he used to have time for her. He’s also not as affectionate with her as he used to be.

Vivien’s best friend notices that the romance between Vivien and Steve has cooled down. Even though Vivien insists that she’s happy with Steve, her best friend comments, “You’re not happy. You’re serene, which is totally different.”

The romantic spark has also apparently dwindled in the marriage of Vivien’s parents. Early on in the film, Vivien (who is an only child) finds out that her mother Sarah (played by Emma Lo Bianco) has been having an affair with another man. Vivien’s businessman father (played by Giampiero Judica), who doesn’t have a name in the movie, is away from home a lot because of his work.

As for Roy’s family, he lives with his widowed father (who’s a mechanic) and pre-teen sister in a dumpy and cluttered trailer. Roy’s father is American, and Roy’s late mother was Italian, which is why Roy’s parents lived in Italy for the first 11 or 12 years of his childhood.

Roy later tells Vivien that one of the reasons why he has hard feelings toward his father is because Roy didn’t want to leave Italy, but it was his father’s decision to move to the United States after Roy’s mother passed away. Roy eventually reveals to Vivien how Roy’s mother died. (Antonella Britti portrays Roy’s mother in this brief flashback.)

At a costume party at a student’s house, Vivien and Roy see each other across the room and they start dancing together. And because this movie is filled with teen movie clichés, a fight inevitably breaks out at the party. You don’t have to be a psychic to know who ends up in the brawl.

Vivien and Roy have another encounter when she’s in the parking lot of a restaurant at night. It’s the same restaurant where Vivien saw her mother on a date and kissing another man. In the parking lot, some young thugs start to harass Vivien. But lo and behold, Roy shows up and comes to Vivien’s rescue.

It turns out he knows these troublemakers because he’s been involved with some criminal activities with them. Later in the movie, Roy is shown committing burglary by breaking into a house with one of his hoodlum pals. They don’t get caught, and the burglary is never mentioned in the movie again.

Vivien’s problems at home and her problems with Steve have upset her to the point where she starts doing her own version of rebelling. There’s a scene where she shows up in a classroom where the teacher is handing out a test to the students. Vivien doesn’t even sit down before she decides she’s going to walk out of the class without taking the test. She doesn’t just walk out. She has to do a dramatic, pouty saunter, as if she’s on some kind of fashion runway.

And what do you know, the swim team is traveling out of the country to go to a swimming competition. And guess where they’ve gone? Italy. Vivien wants to bring the passion back to her romance with Steve. And so, she decides to go to Italy to surprise Steve at the hotel where the swim team is staying.

For reasons that won’t be revealed in this review, Steve isn’t available for most of the trip. But guess who’s available to show Vivien around this part of Italy? You get the gist of what happens in the movie’s trailer. There are no real surprises in how Roy ends up courting Vivien, even though he tells her in a not-very-convincing way that he doesn’t want to fall in love.

Vivien and Roy get together, of course, and they even have (cliché alert) a couple’s signature song: Frankie Valli’s 1967 hit single “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You.” Expect to hear this tune played multiple times in the movie.

“Time Is Up” is plagued by a lot of uneven acting. Thorne can sometimes rise to the occasion in the melodramatic scenes. But too often, she recites her lines in a wooden and emotionless way. Mascolo is even worse, since his acting is very stiff and unnatural in too many parts of the movie. He’s an example of an actor who was hired more for his physical appearance than anything else. The fact that Thorne and Mascolo became a couple in real life doesn’t help their lackluster acting skills in this movie.

The rest of the cast members are adequate in their performances, which are overshadowed by the cringeworthy dialogue throughout much of the movie. The cinematography often tries to make “Time Is Up” look glossy and glamorous, but mostly the movie comes off looking like a badly edited and cheap-looking romance novel. And worst of all for a romance movie, the main characters have personalities that are as plastic as Ken and Barbie dolls. At least Ken and Barbie aren’t as forgettable as this lazy and unimaginative film.

Vertical Entertainment released “Time Is Up” for one night only (via Fathom Events) in U.S. cinemas on September 9, 2021. The movie was released on digital and VOD on September 24, 2021.