Tuesday, September 08, 2009

The Time Traveller’s Wife

Time Traveller's Wife

  • Released Internationally on 14/08/09
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 09/09/09

In a nutshell

Based on the best-selling novel, this is the unusual love story between a normal woman and a man afflicted with unintentional, unpredictable and often unsafe time travel.

Land of the lost 2?

As an addition to the long list of stories about time travel, this one can claim to have a number of truly original concepts and ideas, and it manages to feel fresh and innovative. Henry DeTamble is an average-looking young librarian who often disappears without warning and then re-materialises after a variable amount of time, in his birthday suit. Where he goes can be past, present or future, although he seems to have a preference for major events in his life, which pull him in 'like gravity'. He takes nothing with him, and can spend anything from minutes to weeks in his destination date, so he usually has to resort to stealing, breaking-in and running to avoid being arrested as a streaker.

Where's the love?

Despite the elaborate time-travel aspect of this story, the titular reference to his wife, Clare, is due to the fact that the main focus here is the love story, and how time-travel threatens to tear them apart. After meeting Clare and starting a relationship, Henry finds himself often travelling back to her childhood, where he meets her, and therefore the chronology of their love-life is not exactly run-of-the-mill.

A blessing and a curse

I recently had the pleasure of reading Audrey Niffenegger's wonderfully conceived debut novel, from which this screenplay was adapted by Bruce Joel Rubin (who previously penned numerous successful films including that other unconventional love story, Ghost). The upside was naturally that I could devour every page of the book not knowing what lay ahead, but the downside is how it affected my viewing of the film. The intricate unfolding of relationships over time is handled masterfully in the book, and with adequate explanation but no spoon-feeding, the bigger picture falls into place beautifully. The detail and explanation also serves the very important role of adding an appropriate amount of credibility to the premise, and avoiding lacunae in the time-travel logic.

Gone with the Wind 2?

Unfortunately, since like most films this one clocks in at less than two hours, some trimming was necessary. I doubt that attempting to cram everything into a sprawling four-hour epic would have done justice to the book, or that it would have been very watchable, however this inevitable rushed result has some major flaws. First of all, the film doesn't manage to 'sell' the concept of Henry's genetic illness as well as the book, due to lack of detail and explanation, and I feel this is essential if the audience is to embrace this love story. Secondly, entire swathes of sub-plot are dropped without a mention, making the story seem a bit two-dimensional. Lastly, the book owed a lot of its gripping nature to the balance between the heartfelt and timeless romance between Henry and Clare, and the grisly and often shocking violence and trauma that affect their lives. These traumas are largely smoothed over in the script, resulting in a saccharine film with a PG-13 rating, but less edge and drama.

Who's in it?

Eric Bana (Troy, Munich) is the man with the time-management issues, and a radiant Rachel McAdams (The Notebook, Wedding Crashers) is his patient and suffering wife. Henry's only hope for a normal life, geneticist Dr. Kendrick, is portrayed by Steve Tobolowsky (Memento, Groundhog Day), and his close friend Gomez by Ron Livingston (TV’s Sex and the City and Band of Brothers). Robert Schwentke (Flightplan) was the man in the director’s chair.

In the end

It’s hard to pinpoint anything in the film that is bad, but the film never really takes off or feels truly magical. The performances are occasionally bland, and if they’re not feeling it, I doubt many of the audience will. It’s probably unfair to compare it to the book, but the film doesn’t seem to manage to be the timeless romance it sets out to be. By all means watch the film, but do yourself a favour and savour the book first.



http://www.apple.com/trailers/newline/thetimetravelerswife/ (High-res QuickTime)

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