Saturday, August 15, 2009

Movie Review: The Time Traveler's Wife

Warning: some minor spoilers ahead.

When I first saw the trailer for The Time Traveler's Wife a couple of months ago, I was nervous. The casting didn't bother me — I like Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams just fine. But the trailer had a slightly over-the-top, "schmoopy," quality to it that didn't seem to capture the spirit of the novel the movie is based on. While the novel — written by Audrey Niffenegger — focuses on the romance between its main characters, it's definitely more than just a romance.

Luckily, the film didn't turn out ridiculously lovey-dovey despite a few sappy moments here and there. But unfortunately, there was definitely some truth to my fears. [bxA]

The first half of the movie is odd, partially due to the filmmakers' attempts to condense aspects of the book. We meet our characters during a series of choppy episodes that take place in different parts of the story's timeline. While the jumping time settings make sense due to the nature of the storyline, we don't really get to know our characters all that well. We know their names and occupations thanks to some small scenes and bland dialogue, and we see Henry (Eric Bana) introduce himself as a time traveler to a few trustworthy people here and there.

But while Rachel McAdams (playing Henry's wife Clare) and Bana are likable enough, the audience isn't really given a reason to understand what makes them tick. The Henry and Clare of the novel are ardent music and art lovers — we don't really see this in the movie until an older Henry time travels outside a Pavement concert, or until we get to see some of their decorating choices in their future home together. This may sound like a silly thing to nitpick, but these kinds of details do tend to give characters some soul.

That being said, the latter half of the movie is much stronger than the first part. The characters go through some struggles in their marriage, and the events leading up to the film's tragic ending introduce some much-needed tension. And the story's ending (though slightly tweaked with the novel's final scene cut out of the film) definitely draws an emotional response out of its viewers. It's just a shame the film couldn't be consistently riveting throughout.

If you're looking to pass some time with a movie to take your mind off things, The Time Traveler's Wife might serve that purpose. But this is definitely one of those cases where the book is far, far better and more worthy of one's time.

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