Monday, August 17, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveller's Wife

The Time Traveller’s Wife ** ½
Directed By:
Robert Schwentke.
Written By: Bruce Joel Rubin based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger.
Starring: Eric Bana (Henry DeTamble), Rachel McAdams (Clare Abshire), Arliss Howard (Richard DeTamble), Michelle Nolden (Annette DeTamble), Jane McLean (Charisse), Ron Livingston (Gomez), Philip Craig (Philip Abshire), Stephen Tobolowsky (Dr. David Kendrick), Brooklynn Proulx (Clare at Six and Eight), Hailey McCann (Alba at Nine and Ten), Tatum McCann (Alba at Four and Five).

Henry is a time traveler. He has no idea when he is going to fade out of one time, and show up naked in another time. He is the only one in the world who has this condition - or at least the only one he knows about. He is more likely to time travel if he’s been drinking or if he gets stressed out. Other than that, sometimes he just fades away.

Henry (played by Eric Bana in the movie) is lucky in that he finds a woman who loves and accepts him. Henry first met Clare (played by Rachel McAdams as an adult), when he is in his 40s and she is 6. He travels back in time, from when he and Clare are already married, and over the years he continues to show up in her life again and again, and she falls in love with him. When they meet again, when she is in her early 20s, and he is a few years older, she is already in love with him, and he has no idea who she is - after all he did not start traveling back in time to see Clare until later in his life. But it doesn’t what age they are when they meet. They are made for each other, pure and simple, and despite all the problems that Henry’s disorder causes, theirs is a love that spans years.

In book format, The Time Traveller’s Wife was a wonderful romance. The romance between Henry and Clare was heartfelt and touching. Despite the hardship that Henry’s illness causes, they have a full, happy life. Like any couple, they have their ups and downs, but overall, everything they go through is worth it, because they were made for each other.

In the movie adaptation however, what was a sweeping, almost epic romance has been truncated. The movie moves so quickly moving from one plot point to the other, from one hardship to another, that the happiness in their romance has been all but lost. The movie is much too somber. The people in the film appear to be miserable from start to finish. Yes, they love each other, but you get the feeling that almost everyone would be better off had Clare and Henry never met each other.

One of the problems with the movie is Eric Bana’s performance as Henry. He is depressed when the movie opens, and pretty much spends the whole movie in the same mode. He is somewhat dull and lifeless in the role. He is in fact pretty much the most boring time traveler that I have ever seen in a movie. Rachel McAdams fares much better as Clare. She is at least full of life as Clare. She is happy when Henry is around and attentive, but becomes frustrated when he leaves for hours, days even weeks at a time. She is the character we feel for in this story, in both formats, and McAdams does a wonderful job of bringing her to life. Like in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the man has more screen time, but the female role is much more complex. In both cases, the main character has to suffer with a rare disorder, and dealt with it as best they could. But it is the women in their lives who have to choose to live with the disorder in order to have the men they love in their lives. The Time Traveller’s Wife certainly suffers when compared to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, two movies with similar goals.

The director of the film is Robert Schwentke, whose last film Flightplan was liked by many, but not really by me. Here, he once again does not quite get the tone or the pacing of the story right. He moves too quickly from one scene to the next, never pausing long enough to let the emotions sink in. The bigger problem though is the screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also wrote Ghost. The movie suffers from some of the same problems of that beloved “classic” - which I have always hated.

But The Time Traveller’s Wife is not really all that bad. It certainly holds your attention for its entire running time. It has an interesting premise, and even if it does not quite live up to the promise of the book or the idea, it is still an okay film. For fans of this kind of movie, ones who like their romances with a little bit of sap, cheese and heartbreak, than The Time Traveller’s Wife will most likely satisfy your needs. For the rest of us though, The Time Traveller’s Wife is nothing but a disappointment.

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