Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife: The Movie

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger is one of my all-time favorite books, and I have read it at least once and also listened to the unabridged audio book at least 2 times. This was a pivotal book for me, one that got me really reading a lot while I was out in the desert. I was like other die-hard fans, awaiting the movie with both excitement and dread. Movies can and usually do alter the storyline so much that it's almost unrecognizable.

I haven't read any other reactions to the movie - no reviews, no discussions online, so my opinion comes only from my personal reaction. I loved it - I really did, but I do wonder if it might have been a different movie if certain elements had been retained.

First, I think the gist of the story was truly encompassed in the movie. The story editor(s) did a wonderful job of keeping the central theme of Henry and Clare's love first and foremost, and how the two of them dealt with his time-travel was the driving factor. But almost all of Henry's non-Clare life was left out, obviously for time/movie length reasons. The movie is only 1 hour 45 minutes long, however, so maybe they could have touched a little bit (more) on his pre-Clare life - his cynicism that shows through his relationship to his co-workers, his relationship to his other girlfriend Ingrid, even his later life relationships with Gomez and his personal "drug dealer" whose character name I've forgotten. The result is that the movie is lush and romantic, a chick-flick through and through, and the special effects and consequences of his time travel don't really go into how he had to deal with the worlds he entered, naked and unprepared.

I felt the things that they did end up changing for the movie worked well to solve issues that arise from leaving out characters and scenes - how he convinces Dr Kendrick to work with him, for instance, is changed so that the characters of Kendrick's family are never even introduced (although they appear in the movie, you don't know it unless you read the book).

The actors playing Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana) were really, truly wonderful. Clare's obvious excitement at first meeting Henry in the library shone through her eyes - she was also wonderful in the movie The Notebook with these same expressions. She's a very fetching and engaging actor, almost as wonderful as Amy Adams, a real favorite of mine whose eyes are so expressive. I actually thought Eric Bana was almost too good looking to fit my vision of Henry, but he had me at the movie trailer. He never really got a chance to get into the cynical Henry in my mind, since that part of Henry's character isn't explored at all in the movie. The actor playing his mother was also wonderful - very warm.

I wasn't as enchanted with the little girls playing Alba, although using sisters that looked so much alike worked to show the slightly different ages. She had a very fetching look but her spoken dialogue seemed so stiff.

The storyline is that Henry has a gene that causes him to time travel without much warning and with no control. He travels both back and forward in time, but the rules of his time travel are that any amount of time can take place while he is gone and where he goes - for instance, he could only be gone 5 minutes in our present but might have been in the other time for 5 days. He goes only with his body - no clothes, not even fillings, so he arrives naked and penniless. He learns to pick locks and steal to find clothing and money to survive on in the other time, something his adult self teaches his child self early on - meaning he can be an existence of more than 1 when he travels. In fact, he watches his mother's death hundreds of times because he is a visitor there at several ages.

After his marriage to Clare, he travels back to her childhood and is an off-and-on presence in her life from her age 6 on, but when he meets her in real time - she's in her early 20s and he is 28, he has no idea who she is. It's a wonderful scene in the book and I thought it was also a wonderful movie scene as well.

I expected to cry in the movie, because in the book I cry for pages and pages every time I read it. Although I did feel fully engaged in their relationship during the movie, I wasn't moved to even tear up. I would say it was because I already knew what would happen, but I read the book/audio book 3 or 4 times, and cried every time! And in the movie, it's no secret that something is going to happen, but I just didn't get emotional about it.

So - I'm going with 5 stars - it was a wonderful movie, but with the caveat that it's a chick flick through and through, almost to the point of being sappy. The interesting time-travel aspects and the overriding negatives in Henry's life - his alcoholic father, his mother's death when he was 6, his inability to control his time travel, the horrors of his travels - how many times he was arrested, for instance, or the fact that he can't travel by airplane because it wouldn't be where he was when he left, so he would be killed in the fall on return - none of that is really brought out in the movie. Oh, yeah, sure, they show his father drinking, they show him being arrested once and then disappearing - but those are only seconds on screen, where in the book they are given much more weight.

If you're up for a chick flick, this is a wonderful fairy-tale romance - but if you're expecting a time-travel classic and special effects, stay home!

1 comment:

Heather said...

thanks for the review...I have this book in my tbr pile and I also want to see the movie.