Last year, “Palm Springs” proved that the time-loop conceit from “Groundhog Day” still had some laughs in it. “The Map of Tiny Perfect Things” shows it’s a perfectly fine pretext for teenage treacle.
Adapted by Lev Grossman from his 2016 short story, the movie begins with its timeline already on repeat. Mark (Kyle Allen), a 17-year-old aspiring art student, has found that foreknowledge hasn’t gotten him any closer to a date. Then one day — or, technically, that day — he spots Margaret (Kathryn Newton), clearly out of place at the public pool he knows well. She’s stuck in the same loop. And better to loop together than loop alone.
Mark has to memorize Margaret’s number to keep it in his iPhone once the day resets. But such logistics aren’t a big part of this film’s DNA. Margaret, who wants to work for NASA, is the rationalist of the pair (she helps Mark with his algebra). Mark, for his part, gets an unscientific whim that breaking the cycle requires cataloging “perfect” moments — a bird catching a fish, an expertly executed skateboard move — that the two would only notice with unlimited time. What defines a perfect moment? Again, asking is pointless.
There’s more, and much to spoil, but the director, Ian Samuels, has clearly thought through this trite material in cinematic terms. In a fun sequence, shot in lengthy unbroken takes, Margaret and Mark show off their prescience and balletic grace in a record store and a restaurant kitchen. That the interlude is scored to the repetitions of Pachelbel’s Canon does not qualify as “Groundhog Day”-level wit. But if you have infinite time, it might do.
The Map of Tiny Perfect Things
Rated PG-13. Teenagers unbound by time and space. Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes. Watch on Amazon.