The Time Traveler’s Wife

By AUDREY NIFFENEGGER

Book: ****
Film: **

This film has fallen into the summary quagmire.

I have a great deal of respect for Audrey Niffenegger, the author of the book The Time Traveler’s Wife. She wrote a book about time travel with a fresh perspective and a real soul. I cried at the end of that book, and I wished it wasn’t over. It wasn’t noble of me, and maybe the writing doesn’t have the timeless quality of say, Jane Austen, but that book is nothing if not heart-wrenching.

So when I went into the movie, I tried not to have too high of expectations( because the book was too good to hope for a good movie to go with it).

I was right. If that’s all you wanted to know, feel free to stop reading.

This movie is not, amazingly, guilty of wandering to far off-script. It’s true, they’ve mixed up a few of the events and changed a few things for not apparent reason. But at least I can say that the plot is more or less intact.

But that turns out to be not so much a virtue as a coincidence. Yes, they managed to get the whole story into the movie, but they’ve done so at the expense of the actual story. Case in point: When The Time Traveler’s Wife opens, we see a young boy riding in the car with his mother as they sing — before the mother loses control of the car and the child (Henry) inexplicably disappears, then reappears outside the car naked.

The audience has barely had the time to be rightly puzzled before Eric Bana (and you can only think of him that way) comes up to the boy and explains that Henry is a time traveler. In fact, Bana is Henry at a much older age. That’s how he knows!

Mystery solved. Suspense and interest gone.

In fact, as the story continues, you almost get the feeling that the director is presenting Henry and his lifelong love Clare with problems only to quickly solve them so that they can move on to the next one. The sequences therefore lack continuity, and the emotions feel stilted and shallow. Eric Bana, I’m sorry to say, fails to even deliver anything except a monotone line for about the first half-hour of the film. You could call it subtle, but it’s more accurate to call it bad acting.

Rachel McAdams, meanwhile, doesn’t give Clare the depth of character that she deserves. She hits the audience over the head with her innocence, but her pain, the tension she suffers in waiting, is glossed over.

And it’s a shame, because Niffenegger does such a brilliant job of making the whole thing both poignant and emotional. To be fair, it’s very difficult to transfer the sort of human emotion that can be explored in books onto film, but this feels like more of an effort to quickly summarize the book for lazy readers than an attempt to truly capture the story. I’d gladly have opted out of a few plot details to let a scene linger on an emotion or watch a teardrop fall (corny though it might be). This movie is supposed to be unapologetically romantic and dramatic, so it would be nice if it were either of those things. But if you’re looking for either, better to stick with the printed version.

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5 Responses to The Time Traveler’s Wife

  1. Have you read her next book? I’ll admit that I hated “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, and in a very odd way, that has made me love it. I tend to believe that any book that gives rise to powerful emotion; be it negative or positive MUST be good, right? If it made me hate it, the author obviously did something right, because she made me *feel*.

    I haven’t watched the movie because it seemed impossible to me that they’d be able to convey the true story in 2 hours or so…

    • Kate says:

      Jen,

      I did actually love the book. I think I found where you might’ve thought otherwise, and I’ve clarified, so thanks for bringing it to my attention.

      What I didn’t like was the movie it begot. Honestly, I think it was a mistake for them to try to adapt it. It’s perfect as a book, and there’s no reason to try to make it a Hollywood thing.

      However, I do have her next book, and it is on my to-read list. I’ll get back to you on that one!

      Thanks,
      Kate

  2. Sarah says:

    More and more, I think Rachel McAdams should have stopped after she was (not) hit by the bus in Mean Girls.

  3. Pingback: Script Frenzy: OWNED. «

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