Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife Movie

Last night, I watched the film adaptation of The Time Travelers' Wife. While the actors' appearance and the set of the film were exquisitely appropriate, particularly the meadow and Claire's studio, the film never really captured the emotional tension of the book. As my sister pointed out, the book's real pleasure came from Niffenegger's carefully plotted, non-chronological sequence of events, nearly all of which was missed in the film. The movie instead follows Henry's chronological life (as best it can be followed) with only a couple of flashbacks to Claire's childhood, missing some of the best scenes in the book. Overall, it's not that the movie didn't portray the most important plot points and character background, but mostly that it skipped over the fine details and especially the darker and less palatable ones, that make these characters who they are.

For example (SPOILER ALERT), the movie avoids how Henry really convinces his doctor that he is a time traveler-informing him that his son will be born with Down syndrome. It also translates the loss of Henry's feet to hypothermia into a short stint in a wheelchair. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams look picture-perfect as Henry and Claire. McAdams' acting is convincing, though she looks too young at times to portray the older Claire. Bana is moody, but not dark enough, as Henry and he never looks convincingly old. These may be more the fault of makeup artists or lack thereof however. But taking away the time Henry beats up a football player who abused Claire not only avoids unseeming darkness, but takes away an important bond between the characters. I do love a statement that McAdams as Claire makes in the movie that I do not believe is in the book, "You impressed yourself upon the mind and heart of a young girl. I never had a choice!" This is cutting to the heart of who Claire and Henry really are, and the trick that time-travel has played on them.

If you've read the book, you don't really need to see the movie. It just isn't as good and has few redeeming qualities. As a movie, it's probably a tearjerker for those who like that sort of thing and enough remains of Niffenegger's plot to be mildly entertaining. The pace seemed to me to be too fast and (ironically) continually skipping ahead in time, but that's probably because I'm aware of how much from the book was missing.

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