Sunday, November 08, 2009

REVIEW: The Time Traveler's Wife

Movies about time travel often trip on those pesky paradoxes. The Time Traveler's Wife pretty much ignores them, and in so doing still trips all over itself.

Still, in any movie about romance, whether it's dramatic or comedic even sci-fi-ish, two key questions must be answered in the affirmative: Do I like this couple, and do I want to see them together? And yes, I did want to see Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams together. He plays a man who unwittingly travels through time and cannot control when he goes or where he ends up. She plays who must be the single most patient, tolerant and understanding woman in love ever put on film. I can't think of any other woman who would or even could put up with a man who literally vanishes at any given point.

The movie does a good job of putting the viewer in Bana's shoes - maybe a little too good. I often felt disoriented and confused, just like Bana and McAdams do.  The movie never clearly explains its "rules." We establish that Bana time travels unwillingly. Yet he seems to be able to control it sometimes. For instance, he vanishes just moments before he is to be married, but then, as his older self, reappears there to make up for his absence. How did he learn to do that? Experience? I couldn't tell.

I haven't read the much-loved book on which the movie is based, but I get the strong sense that its narrative difficulties stem from not quite licking the transition from page to screen. Since writer Bruce Joel Rubin comes up short on the time-travel, he compensates by concentrating on the difficulty of loving someone who can't be fully there for you. Thematically, it's not dissimilar from Rubin's best-known work, Ghost, which was more effective because as dopey as it often was, kit made its logic work.

And something else puzzled me. The story is called The Time Traveler's Wife, so why is the movie told mostly from the traveler's perspective? I think I would have been even more interested to experience the story from the vantage point of the wife, to whom we can most easily relate, since we can't time travel.

All that said, the movie works because the actors play their roles with such conviction. McAdams in particular has an uncanny ability to take even the sappiest stories and invest them with real believable passion. And Bana  comes close to matching her. As uneven and confusing as the movie is, I bought it because of them.


1 comment:

Allison Dickson said...

I honestly didn't think this movie would do the book justice, and by all accounts it really didn't. It's a concept that plays beautifully on the page, but is hard to describe in a visual medium like film, which often requires that a lot of subtext be left out.