August 11, 2009

Much Ado About Nothing (or The Tale of the Time Traveler's Wife)

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I don't do what's popular when it comes to books. I didn't read The Da Vinci Code, The Jane Austen Book Club, or Eat, Pray, Love. Not that they aren't good. I mean, I don't know if they're good. But I don't really care. I've had so many people tell me to read them that I don't read them, just so I can say that I'm the only person that hasn't read them. (I know. It's very mature behavior.) The Time Traveler's Wife is one of those books.

I've had friends that have read it two or three times. It's so romantic, such a good story, so addicting, they say. So I was kind of excited to see the movie. So I could see what all the fuss was about. Also because I was curious to see how the whole time travel thing would translate to screen. And tonight. I found out.

As one who cries when there is applause at a concert or at any random, sappy Lifetime movie, I did not shed one tear in The Time Traveler's Wife. In birth, romance or death. No. Tears. Why? Because I didn't care what happened to any of the characters.

Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana) start out meeting in a library and somehow fall in love, though it's never really clear why they like each other, what their interests are, why they are attracted to each other. Empty dialogue attempts to narrate the story, but does not explain anything. There are flashbacks. There's time travel. He's there and then he's gone. He's being chased, she's home alone crying. It's not about her, the title character, The Time Traveler's Wife. In fact we know less about her than any of the characters, which is mildly annoying since she is the title character. But only mildly because I was not emotionally invested at all.

Clare and Henry get married, because he decides that he's "not lonely anymore." During the wedding, he keeps leaving to time travel and coming back either older, with gray hair or younger, with black hair. Multiple times. In one day and with guests around, though they never seem to notice. Everyone just acts like it's normal that a guy will have gray hair then black hair within twenty minutes without the assistance of a hair stylist and some dye. This is where I laughed out loud. It was not romantic at all. Especially on their wedding night when... oh never mind. It's not about their wedding.

The time travel was problematic and nonsensical. Yes, I know it's a fantasy kind of a story. But I can watch Firefly and have my disbelief completely suspended while I'm watching spaceships flying around. I did not believe the time travel for a minute. Time traveler talking to current self, giving advice. Time traveler as playmate to current self. Time traveler being romantic with current self's wife.Time travel is a silly complication that's totally unnecessary. It's not about time travel.

There's just no story there. There's no real conflict and there's no resolution to the non-conflict. And then it ends. It was like a two hour long montage of video a sometimes happy, sometimes sad couple. And sometimes they talk. It's about nothing. The end.

If you've read the book, see the movie. Otherwise, don't bother.

The Time Traveler's Wife opens in wide release on Friday.


Jenny P said...

I have to preface my feelings about the movie with my feelings about the book. I LOVE LOVE LOVED the book. I have read and reread it and reread it again... Multiple times. I am not a sci-fi fan. It might seem strange that I would love a book where a major aspect of the plot includes time travel. But here is the thing about the book... it really wasnt about time travel. It was an amazing, but not cheesy love story that involved two interesting complex characters. I was really impressed with the way the book handled the task of having Henry in multiple places. It could have been really difficult... and the story could have gotten lost in the details of it. It was really well done and never distracted from the story. The plot may involve time travel.. but really it was about two people who were absolutely in love and how they tackeled this one factor in their relationship and went about trying to have a normal life, children etc. Aside from the interesting stories about Henry getting caught naked in various places, it could have been any other hurdle in a relationship. I think that is what makes it easy to relate to. I still cry every time I read it.

I have mixed feelings about the movie. I found it lacking compared to the book. The movie attempted humor at odd times, which I thought was distracting. One example: the wedding. While reading the book I felt a lot of anxiety about Henry traveling before the wedding and her family finding out. In the movie it was supposed to be funny when 40+ yr old Henry showed up unshaven and w/ gray hair. The movie hardly even hinted at Claire's excitement to see the Henry that she had initially fallen in love with as a child, and I felt that was an important part of that moment. Claire was such an interesting person in the book. And I feel like Rachel McAdams has the capacity to play that part... but it wasnt written that way. Part of that could have been that the movie begins on what would have been pg 147 of the book. (I made that page number up, but you get the idea.) I can understand why they delined to begin the love story with Claire at age 8 and Henry at age 40. It worked and wasnt creepy in the book, but it might not have played out so well with the visual of Henry naked in the meadow. (Doesnt help that Eric Bana is hotter when unshaven and without clothes... ) So when Claire shows up, 2 minutes into the movie at the library, "finally" running into Henry in real time and was completely in love, for a second I almost sided with Henry and wondered who this creepy girl was. The dialogue was lacking and sometimes awkward as they tried to explain some aspect of the story they hadnt taken the time to act out. There were moments that were touching... Henry with his mom on the Subway... A few of the moments with Henry and Claire in the meadow... particularly the one at the end of the movie... that was written for the movie, and never happened particularly that way in the book... moments with Alba and moments with Henry's dad.

For the first half of the movie, I remained skeptical, waiting for the characters I loved to unfurl. They didnt really. By the second half of the movie, I didnt care and I managed to stop feeling let down and actually managed attachment to the characters and their story... though it wasnt really because of what was playing on the screen, but because of my own affection for them, and my history with the book. I really wish they had tried harder. It had so much potential.

To sum up, I thought it was okay, not terrible. It went through the motions. It just didnt live up to my expectations, which I will admit were rather high.

Michele said...

Eat, Pray, Love was one of the worst books I've ever read. I hated everything about the way the author whined about her life no matter what she was doing. Furthermore, after all her "self discovery" in the end, she made a full circle back to the same stupidity she was trying to rid herself of in the beginning. In conclusion, you missed out on nothing but not reading Eat, Pray, Love.

Moe said...

I haven't read the book or seen the movie. When I saw the previews I was dumbfounded that a movie was made about basically what was one of my favorite tv shows - Journeyman - which I adored and of course it was canceled. I love Eric Bana but have no intentions of seeing the movie, your review just confirmed it even more.