Russell Goldman's 'Closing Time' Short Puts an Unexpected Twist on Time Travel
Caleb Foote in Closing Time courtesy of Russell Goldman

Writer-director Russell Goldman made his new short film, “Closing Time,” as a proof-of-concept for a future feature. But although the story hinges on the main character’s yearning to travel back in time, it puts an unexpected twist on the popular sci-fi trope.

“This is a concept that I have been working on for as long in my adult life as I can remember,” Goldman, who also serves as head of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Comet Pictures, tells MovieMaker ahead of the short’s world premiere at LA Shorts International Film Festival on Sunday at 7:45 p.m.

“Closing Time” follows Trent (Caleb Foote), a late-twenty-something who gathers his group of estranged best friends from college for a party at a local bar. Expecting to walk into a bustling crowd, Trent’s friends are confused when they realize it’s just the six of them. They’re threatening to go home early when Semisonic’s hit song “Closing Time” starts playing on the speakers. Trent slips mysterious pairs of headphones over their ears, dropping them into a shared psychosis via the song in which they’re transported back to a moment six years prior — right before everything went wrong.

Making Closing Time

The storyline plays with time travel, but in more of a dream-state sense, a la Christopher Nolan’s Inception. Goldman says it was important to him to shake up the time-travel trope.

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“As much as I love some of them, I am weary of time travel movies in this specific regard. And I realized that there had not been many movies about just inventing a different psychosis-like alternate reality that you can just Matrix-style step into and — so long as you have your other pals — you could just live out whatever that [fantasy] was or whatever you hoped it could be or could have been,” he says.

“It came from this surreal, mid-late 20s feeling of, like, there’s a track record of my decisions now and a series of fuck-ups and successes and choices. And they all led to what I have today.”

The alternate-reality-through-shared-psychosis concept is reminiscent of the many multiverse plots that have cropped up recently in popular films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.

“There’s something, of course, in the broader consciousness right now about multiverse stories. And I think a lot of them are wrestling with those ideas of, ‘What if I went down this other path?'” Goldman says. “I think that the thing that intrigues me the most about ‘Closing Time’ is framing those within a fixation — like in the case of Trent… fixating on friendships that meant so much to him and are falling apart, and approaching that kind of dark state of mind with a movie that could support it.”

The cliffhanger ending of “Closing Time,” which finds Trent and his friends sling-shotted into an alternate reality where they’re back in college, is meant to serve as the jumping-off point for a feature-length film. And it leaves the door wide open to an endless supply of endings.

“What is surrounding them is basically what the five of them can collectively remember as a hive mind, so it’s not quite back to exactly what it actually was six years ago — details are changing, because people are remembering things,” Goldman says of what he might explore in the feature-length version. “The core problem of the rest of the story is that some people want to stay and some people want to leave.”

Goldman is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker from Virginia. He co-wrote the upcoming Blumhouse feature Mother Nature — based on the graphic novel of the same name coming out this summer — with his Comet Pictures producing partner, Jamie Lee Curtis.

Goldman is also the writer-director behind the 2022 short film “Return to Sender,” also produced by Curtis, which he plans to expand into his feature directorial debut.

In addition to Foote, “Closing Time” also stars Terry Hu, Alyssa Limperis, Demi Adejuyigbe, and Samantha Bartow. It was written and directed by Goldman and produced by Jake Katofsky and Liz Maupin.

You can watch the trailer for “Closing Time” and learn more about Goldman’s other projects on his website here.

Main Image: Caleb Foote in “Closing Time” courtesy of Russell Goldman.