Full disclosure: This review is written from the point of view of someone who has not read the wildly successful book by Audrey Niffenegger. It's unknown that if that statement were the opposite if it would have enhanced the experience -- filling in backstory where it's badly needed -- or degrade the film when compared directly to the popular written story. In truth, it shouldn't matter; but, for many ... oh, it certainly will.
The film starts out with a young Henry lamenting, while riding the rear of his mother's car, that he does not have the ability to sing as beautifully as his mother does. Unfortunately, a traffic accident ensues. Fortunately, for young Henry, he magically disappears from the vehicle -- not just disappears: he time travels back two weeks, then reappears in the present, nude, safely outside the vehicle. Unfortunately, his mother does not posses this same talent (that great singing voice was not much of help in this situation) and perishes in the accident as Henry watches. At this moment, Henry is visited by, well, Henry (Eric Bana
) -- only much older -- who explains to Henry that he has the ability to travel through time. Naturally.
See, this sounds like a great talent, right? Not really. Henry can't really control his time travel skills, he only travels (for the most part) in his own lifetime and no matter how hard he tries, he can't change anything that happens in the past. It's like being the most talented chef on the planet, but not really in control of what comes out of the oven. OK, it's probably nothing like that. An explanation: Henry lives his normal life in one constant timeline. He does jump around a lot, but he always returns to this constant timeline. In other words: If it's 1997 for Henry and he travels back to 1978, he's not going to jump to 2002. He's going back to 1997 -- nude. Oh yeah: clothes don't travel through time. So any time Henry travels, he shows up nude and usually commits a crime to obtain clothes.
Henry meets Clare (Rachel McAdams
) at a library, sort of. See, they have met before. But only for Clare. Henry still had not traveled back to meet Clare's younger self, but he will! She promises! Confused? It's not as confusing as it sounds. Though, there are times when it's hard to tell grown-up Henry from slightly older Henry other than some grey around the temples.
The good: Eric Bana. Bana is just about perfect as the stoic-faced time traveler who is often running from angry citizens who have just had their clothes stolen. He's beyond regret for his actions at this point; it's just simple survival. The bad: Eric Bana. Bana comes across wooden during the, what would
be described as, tender moments with Clare. Bana often appears to just be going through the motions, thinking about the next scene that involves some action.
The Time Traveler's Wife © New Line Cinema
Are the plot holes explained by the book? The assumption is that they are explained. When Henry and Clare first meet, she mentions a doctor that is helping Henry with his time travel. Henry has no idea who she's talking about. Henry waits several years to find this doctor after that conversation. Why did he have to wait? Why didn't he go the second Clare told him? Also, it's almost comical, at times, how quickly people believe Henry is a time traveler. Then again, when someone disappears right in front of you as Henry did with his friend Gomez (Ron Livingston
), that probably speeds up the ol' acceptance meter.
"The Time Traveler's Wife
" is really two different movies. The story of time travel and the accompanying scenes are quite good, actually, at times. The love story has a tendency to bog the film down, though. And the love story is, kind of, sort of, the whole point of the film, so... Also, Ron Livingston's Gomez is criminally underused in this film. There's a spark of reality every time he's on the screen dealing with the intricacies of having a friend that, you know, vanishes without warning -- even on his wedding day. Now, there's an idea for a good movie: "The Time Traveler's Best Man."Grade: C+
"Mike's Pulse" is a column written by transplanted Midwesterner and current New Yorker Mike Ryan. For any compliments or complaints -- preferably the former -- you may contact Mike directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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