Movie Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife
Convoluted story bogs down the movie’s potential
Picture this. Frothygirlz writer CJ and I attend the screening of The Time Traveler’s Wife. CJ has read the book, I have not. CJ warns me to bring tissue and shares that she is looking forward to a good cry. At the end of the movie when the lights we both leave, dry-eyed. Nary a tissue was harmed during the viewing of this movie. Uh-oh. What went wrong?
Boasting beautiful visuals, likable leads, a fantastic score, and based upon a beloved book, it seems that this movie has the deck stacked in its favor. However, it withers under the weight of poorly written story. Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) attempts to navigate some tricky waters by tackling a love story with time travel as a backdrop. Movies about time travel can triumph if they are well written ( Time Crimes serves as a recent example) but without an extremely tight story, things can unravel quickly, as they do here. It’s too bad, because the last third shows the true potential of the movie, but by then I had utterly lost interest.
A gorgeous Rachel McAdams (The Notebook) plays Clare, a girl destined to end up with the time traveling Henry (Eric Bana Munich, Funny People). Their first introduction takes place in a meadow, where a six year old Clare is having a picnic. Suddenly a naked man appears out of nowhere (because only the person, not the clothes make the trip). Instead of screaming “Stranger Danger!!” and sprinting for the hills as any normal child would do, Clare asks the man who he is and immediately accepts his story about being a time traveler. He promises to visit her again, which quite frankly seems like more of a threat than a promise. The whole scene seemed creepy and was the antithesis of being romantic.
Clare meets Henry in a library when she is in college, and excitedly rushes up to a confused Henry (who doesn’t remember her yet, don’t even make me go there) and explains that they have met many times before and that they are destined to be together, according to the older version of Henry who was doing the meadow meet-and-greet.
During their wedding, he disappears just before the vows (he has no control over when he will be thrust into another time). Never fear, somehow the older Henry’s batman senses must have gone all a tingle and he shows up to save the day, with grey hair, to boot. A few observant guests notice that he now has grey hair when a moment before he did not, and nothing else of it is ever mentioned. An extremely unfortunate song choice is made for their first dance, “Love will tear us apart”, by Joy Division. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take my Joy Division where I can get it, but a wedding dance? Really. I couldn’t tell if this was supposed to be ironic, foreshadowing, or just a really stupid error. Joy Division is not exactly synonymous with jubilant occasions.
Everything in this movie is presented at face value, but not explained. The personal toll the time travel takes on Henry is never explored. Does it hurt? Is it scary? Likewise, when friend of the couple (Ron Livingston) finds out Henry’s secret, he’s appropriately shocked, but just once. After that, its almost as if he would say, “That crazy Henry, he must be time traveling again” and resume washing the dishes. I’m pretty sure that seeing my friend disappear before my very eyes would still freak me out, even after 500 times. No one asks questions, ever. I have no problem suspending belief, but come on, throw me a bone!
We are beat over the head with the fact that Henry has no control over when or where he goes. Are we to believe that it is absolute coincidence that he arrived at the wedding in time for the vows? The film violates its own logic there. Why does he show up in the meadow so often? CJ told me that the book explained some of this better. I did get the distinct feeling that this movie assumes that you have read the book (by Aubrey Neffinegger). The first hour of this movie is frustrating, tedious, and dull. It’s really a shame, because this movie had so much potential. The last thirty minutes hint to the movie that could have been, but it was too little, too late.
Frothygirlz rating 6/10