Saturday, August 15, 2009

Henry Isn't Making It Home For Dinner

The Time Traveler's Wife

There's something fundamentally puzzling about "The Time Traveler's Wife," which is based on the 2003 novel by Audrey Niffenegger. This is the romantic fantasy tale of a woman named Claire (Rachel McAdams) and her time-traveling husband. His name is Henry (Eric Bana), and he has a genetic disorder that forces him to involuntarily time travel without any control of where or when he ends up. And as a further inconvenience, he shows up wherever he is completely naked forcing him to steal and therefore get nearby police force on his trail. If and when he gets arrested, however, he eventually just disappears from the backseat of the police car. Amidst all of this, he just as suddenly finds himself popping back into the life of his wife. The thing is that he gravitates toward big events in his life, and Claire was a big event.

Except sometimes when Henry appears in Claire's life he is too young to know who she is. Has he not met her yet? And yet it's baffling how that can be since Henry explains frequently to Claire, both as a young girl and an adult, how the two of them met. It was in a meadow where Claire played as a young girl. Henry time traveled to her and appeared before her naked requesting for a blanket to cover himself up. He told her about his time traveling, and she believed him. Even at that moment Henry was in love with Claire, and she even became jealous upon discovering that he was married. Little did she know he was married to her. These scenes in the meadow are meant to be enchanting and sweet, and yet, unfortunately enough, they feel strangely uncomfortable as Henry unintentionally creeps on an innocent little girl.

At their wedding Henry disappears right before the ceremony. He appears somewhere else naked, and then a much older version of him returns with graying hair for the vows. Moments later, he disappears again only to return much younger than before to share his first dance with his wife. Henry can appear someplace in time during moments where he is able to watch himself. Other times it's curiously just him in the world as Claire waits for him all the while. If you begin considering the lapses in logic or the downright absurdity of this entire time-traveling "inconvenience" that hinders the romance, well then, give up all hope now. This is a movie that asks you to simply take everything in stride and get the hang of the nonsense as best you can.

Once you have done that, you can really then focus on the core of the movie, and that is the surprising chemistry between Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana. They're both just really nice together, and even when things start getting terrible, they can just smile those smiles of theirs, and it all ends up seeming better. The sincerity of their relationship ultimately turns to sappiness, though, and the overall result that's meant to be a sweeping romance ends up being only a mere dabble into weepy melodrama. And yet considering the material, director Robert Schwentke ("Flightplan") and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin ("Ghost") do an admirable job of mostly ignoring the time-traveling complications that could have really complicated things to an unbearable extent. Just watch how Henry and Claire love each other, and that's all you need. That's all there is to "The Time Traveler's Wife," really.

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