' Cinema Romantico: The Time Traveler's Wife

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

So Gomez is played by Ron Livingston. I can't say I pictured Gomez looking like Ron Livingston. But it works....kinda. Except where's the wild child Ingrid? Nowhere to be found! And what's up with that final image of the 82 year old Clare going the way of Ingrid? It was my favorite part! I couldn't believe-

I'm sorry, what's that? You're confused, you say? Oh. You must not have read Audrey Niffenegger's novel upon which this movie is based. My apologies.

Yes, we find ourselves in that familiar place, a review of a movie based on a book which the reviewer just happens to adore. And I do adore "The Time Traveler's Wife", a book obstensibly about time traveling but really about the necessary sacrifices and problems of a relationship and the worthwhile beauty of singular moments in life.

What to do, what to do? You probably want me to detach myself from my fond memories of the novel and review the film all on its lonesome. But we both know that ain't happening. You mean to tell me that's how you watch movies based on books you just happen to adore? Didn't think so. We're coming at this from different angles but they are angles we should both understand and so cut me some slack. Thanks.

And for all you fellow "Time Traveler's Wife" novel edition fans reading along I ask that you please cut screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin some slack, too. Yes, certain cuts from the printed word version left me sad but a movie is an entirely different animal and as a "screenwriter" (emphasis on the parentheses) myself I empathize with Mr. Rubin. He had to find the spine of the book and use that and that alone to craft his script.

That said, there are no monstrous changes. We still find ourselves in the midst of Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), a librarian in Chicago who just also happens to be a time traveler. If feeling fear or anxiety or the effects of too much alcohol (and a few other things) the odds are good Henry might vanish into either the future or the past, leaving behind a pile of clothes. The movie does essentially start with Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) seeing Henry at his libarary and recognizing him, though he doesn't recognize her even though he has already met her as a little girl in the meadow outside her parents' mansion because he was, you know, time traveling. The path their relationship takes on the page looks a lot like the same path they take onscreen (read: their fates remain the same) and it's also dealt with very matter-of-factly (dispensing with a great deal of the technical crap real time traveling would no doubt involve, a fact that may concern some people but about which I could not care less).

That said, monstrous changes are not always what make or break an adaptation. Henry is such a good guy in the movie, almost as if the time traveling is just a minor nuisance. Where is the alcoholism? Where is the tougher edge? Henry has to beat people up, steal, cheat, lie, just to survive, and while we get the briefest glimpses of all this the movie sacrifices a lot of the novel's complications.

The movie is less about specific moments and more about straight arc and I'm not sure that's a good thing and yet I also found myself enjoying the movie because, well, I was just glad to see these people up on the screen in front of me. I liked seeing Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams as Henry and Clare. I thought they fit the parts. It was nice.

I realize a movie review is supposed to allow a person to know whether or not this is a movie they should be interested in seeing and that my review probably has not succeeded if you haven't read the book. So sorry, non-readers of "The Time Traveler's Wife", but you're on your own.

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