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When Henry DeTamble meets Clare Abshire in a Chicago library they both understand that he is a time traveler, but she knows much more about him as he has not yet been to the times and places where they have already met. He falls in love with her, as she has already with him, but his continuing unavoidable absences while time traveling - and then returning with increasing knowledge of their future - makes things ever more difficult for Clare.Written by
Terrific performances and chemistry from Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana keep the movie afloat
The Time Traveler's Wife is a romantic drama directed by Robert Schwentke, adapted from Audrey Niffenegger's bestseller of the same name. Adapting a novel with complex elements and undertones to the silver screen is a daunting task and director Robert Schwentke struggled to compromise between satisfying readers of the novel and making the movie accessible to people unfamiliar with the book. Overall, the movie has some significant directing and screen writing flaws but does make for an unpretentious and above-average romantic tragedy thanks to its two compelling leads.
Sypnosis: The Time Traveler's Wife is the time-defying love story of Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) and Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams). Henry is a librarian afflicted with a genetic disease that causes him to travel through time more or less randomly. Henry's random and unpredictable escapades are often dangerous, terrifying and sometimes life-threatening ordeals because he ends up buck-naked and starving in unknown places and times. For those reasons, Henry keeps himself in top physical shape and taught "himself" all type of survival skills such as pick-pocketing, street fighting, or picking locks. After a random while, he always goes back to his "present" but is largely unable to affect his future. At age 28, he meets 20-yr old Clare Abshire. He doesn't know her but she has known him since she was 6 and has been waiting for him all her life and will do so the rest of her life...
The main weaknesses of the movie can be traced back to trying to fit the book into 107 minutes. Director Robert Schwentke and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin appeared a bit over-matched and took the path of least resistance, oversimplifying the plot and characters. The book was a bit confusing at times because of its particular narrative structure and the movie inherits the same problem. Screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin made some compromises to keep the movie from becoming excessively long or inaccessible to its PG-13 audience. The main events and characters of the book were translated to the big screen although non-essential characters such as Kimi or Ingrid were completely omitted and the ending was slightly altered (and I liked it). The supporting characters are a mere passing thoughts, the key relationship between Clare and Gomez is one-dimensional. Even the two main characters, Henry and Clare, are under-developed. Ideally, the direction of the movie should have been given to a director with better credentials, and the movie extended up to 140 minutes to develop the characters fully and take advantage of the terrific cast.
Despite those shortcomings, The Time Traveler's Wife is one of those movies you can't help but like. It is at heart a simple star-crossed love story with a refreshing sci-fi twist that touches on universal themes such as fate/free will, true love, and loss. A story that focused on the depth of the characters' love, not its showiness. Their will to move forward and enjoy every minute they have with each other before Henry's impending fate. This meant more close-up shots and a deeper and more realistic exploration of what it means to be Henry and Clare. The movie succeeds in moving the audience thanks in big part to moving performances from the two leads, who surrendered themselves fully to the premise of the novel.
The Time Traveler's Wife features the graceful Rachel McAdams as the title character. Most will have missed her terrific performance in the 2008 indie the Lucky Ones and this puts her back on the radar for mainstream audiences. Beside matching the description of Clare in the book, McAdams has an unusual ability to make her characters feel real against all odds. Overcoming an underwritten character, she carries the emotional weight of the movie and was luminous portraying Clare's spirit and unyielding love for Henry's despite being riddled with some terrible lines once again. Will someone give Rachel McAdams a meatier role for God's sake??? Eric Bana was a big surprise, exceeding my expectations and making for a very solid Henry. Although he does not fit the physical description of the book (Henry is more runner than football player) Bana's Henry was tormented, introverted, poignant, and more importantly, had considerable chemistry with his co-star. The only issue I had was that Henry was mostly a one-note character. The supporting cast was solid albeit given very little opportunity to be memorable. Gomez (Ron Livingstone) was a pivotal character in the book but merely a passing thought in the movie. Jane McLean as Charisse, Arliss Howard as Henry's father, Stephen Tobolowsky as Dr. Kendrick all did a fine job with the small parts they had.
The cinematography has a beautiful stark and cold quality to it which reinforce the tragic nature of the movie. The movie was beautifully shot by Florian Ballhaus and is the strongest attribute of the movie behind its leads. The crafty camera-work using motion and placement selection gave a particular tone to his scenes and Schwentke used that to his advantage in the film, giving the movie a light touch of fantasy. He created a nice immersing atmosphere that really highlighted Clare and Henry's impending fate. The CGI effects of Henry's time traveling are unspectacular but first rate while the overused musical score was melancholic, adding to the tragic tone of the movie.
Enjoy the Time Traveler's Wife for what it is: an endearing love story with an unusual sci-fi premise. It may not be exactly like the book, it may have been darker and heavier on the sci-fi, and it may have been so much more with better direction. Even so, the premise of the story, and the perfectly-cast leads make this movie well-worth the ride and will keep your imagination lingering long afterward.
B+: Boasting terrific performances and chemistry from Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana, the Time Traveler's Wife has some flaws but is a charming, endearing and bittersweet romantic drama nonetheless.
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