by Zoe Shapiro
What I loved about the book by Audrey Niffenegger was that it was hands down, no-nonsense, good writing while simultaneously being an airy fairy romance too. It was both sustenance and dessert. The film version however is a sweet, easy movie but only if you’re in the mood for fluff.
Henry (Eric Bana) and Clare( Rachel McAdams) like the pantheon of cinematic couples before them have an OBSTACLE to their love. But unlike something tangible (say the civil war that puts a damper on ole Scarlett’s passion) these two must contend with something wholly ethereal. Every so often, Henry disappears into time. He started time travelling at five and has lived backwards and forwards ever since, vanishing when things get stressful (convenient, huh?). Niffenegger grounds her story in a quasi-reality by explaining that Henry’s gift is a ‘genetic anomaly’ that causes him to skip through time and arrive in a different month or year discombobulated and butt neked. It is when he meets Clare that he becomes emotionally grounded, finally having something worthwhile to hold onto in the present.
What’s cute about this story is the hijinks. The first time Henry meets Clare is not the first time Clare has met Henry. That happened when she was a little girl and an already married (to Clare) Henry began to appear to her (still with me?) every so often. His role as storyteller/ protector turned into a crush and romantic interest until Clare found the Henry of her own time. And they shagged. So while not love at either one’s first sight, both knew who they were destined for. Aww. There are also great little vignettes in the film such as how Clare got pregnant even after Henry had a vasectomy because an earlier version of Henry popped into her present. And womb.
If you indulge the story and are in the mood for inconsequential romance, Time Traveler’s definitely fits the bill. It might even strike a chord for those of you (ok, us) who are also familiar with a loved one absenting themselves contrary to our own wishes. And while I enjoyed seeing the story and characters I had fallen for on page as their moving picture selves, I had a few serious reservations about Robert Schwentke’s filmic version. Namely, what felt so genuinely sweet (a rarity) to me in the text comes across as schmaltzy in the movie. The meadow in which Henry discovers the child Clare is so CGI perfect that I fully expected Bambi and Thumper to enter stage left. And as for Bana and McAdams, while their performances are fine, the chemistry just wasn’t there. And if I’m indulging my m+m’s swilling, poetry reading, girly side, I need sparks people. The book’s ending made me cry. On each reading. At the end of the film I changed and went to the gym without a backward glance. Such is the nature of adaption: a built in fan who is easily disenchanted.
This is Hallmark Hollywood romance, not heart pounding, transcendent, movie-magic. And while sometimes I want to be broken hearted over fictional people’s lives and loves, sometimes I just need two hours of fantasy and frippery. As a film, The Time Traveler’s Wife will do the latter. If you have enough m+m’s on hand.