Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin
Starring Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, and Ron Livingston

This film had everything it needed to succeed. It has two great actors in two great roles. It is a great story adapted from Audrey Nuffinegger's great novel of the same name. Yet, it did not succeed.

What happened? Well, the film requires the audience to be invested in not only the characters, but in their lives, and in their marriage as well. It doesn't allow for the audience to know the characters, their lives, or their marriage. It simply moved through out the story without inviting the audience to be invested in it. In the story, Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana) is a time traveler and I felt like I had the same reaction to the film as he did to his life. He is constantly being tossed through out time and I was constantly being tossed from one plot point to the other.

In this film, being a time traveler is not a good thing. It is actually a disease that causes a person to jump around in time. Why this genetic disease causes the character to slowly fade by way of pixie dust I do not know. It seems like it would be sudden and violent, instead of looking like taking a trip with Tinkerbell by way of her fairy dust.

Henry's wife, Claire, (Rachel McAdams) meets him when she is six years old and he is in his late thirties. He doesn't meet her until he is in his late twenties/early thirties and she is in her early twenties. It was an older versions of himself that met her when she was six. You'll just have to trust me that those last few sentences make sense in the context of the story. The reason why he met her when she was so much young is because when he travels in time he is pulled towards "big events" in his own life. Claire is an important part of his life, so he is constantly pulled towards her.

With that in mind it seems like the filmmakers would have put a great deal of focus on the marriage of these two characters. I mean the marriage is strong enough that Henry is passing through time and space to meet his wife when she is a child. In order to understand that we should have really gotten to know these two characters as well as their life together. As it stands, we didn't get to know them or their marriage. We simply pass through the big events of their lives. I didn't understand why Henry was visiting her beyond the fact that the story required him to do it.

The characters have the potential to be really deep and interesting but we only get snapshots of the complexity of them. When Claire first spends the night with Henry and finds lipstick (not his) in his medicine cabinet that should say something about Henry's nature at that point in his life. That isn't explored at all, it is passed right on by it to the next scene. They talk about it, it's barely addressed, and the story moves on. In that next scene Henry and Claire are much closer. Again, I was asking why? The only reason that I came up with was because that is what the story needed.

I would have loved to spend time with these two characters. Eric Bana is a fantastic actor and I always enjoy seeing him in a film. He has been in two other films this summer and they couldn't be more different from one another. He was the villian in Star Trek, which was a bit role but he really committed to the part and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. He also had a great role in Funny People in which he gives sympathy to a character that we are initially suppose to hate. He plays Henry with a certain sadness that comes from being burdened by constantly being ripped from his present life, which is his home. Also, he is a character that more or less knows what is going to happen for the rest of his life. If that isn't enough he is burdened by knowing the fate of nearly everybody around him. Bana gives us a glimpse into that character but the filmmakers don't let us explore it.

Rachel McAdams has a strong screen presence and it is no fault of her own if we don't fall instantly in love with her character. She plays the younger Claire with a wide eyed wonder. Claire has finally "caught up" to the love of her life and it is all excitement. The reality of living with, and being in love with a time traveler starts to wear on her. Again, McAdams gives us something in this character, but we don't have time to enjoy it.

There is no sense of wonder in this film. There is no sense of romance in this film. There is no sense of joy or sadness in this film. I didn't get to experience the marriage of two characters that have fallen in love despite the fact that one of them is constantly being thrown through time. It is, quite simply, a wasted opportunity.

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