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Movie Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife

Posted on: August 14, 2009

Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams in The Time Travler's Wife

Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams in The Time Travler's Wife

We saw an advance screening of The Time Traveler’s Wife, opening in theatres today, but walked out with reviews of two different perspectives: Mallory is a big fan of the book and Marcy wanted to read Audrey Niffenegger’s novel after she saw the film. Here, we share thoughts on the Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams romance from both sides of the spectrum.

Reviews (and SPOILERS! BEWARE!) after the jump.

The Movie, by Marcy
You’re my best friend.  I’ve been in love with you all my life.

I specifically held off on reading The Time Traveler’s Wife as soon as I heard they were making it into a movie and that my two favorite actors, Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams were going to play the leads.

And holding off on reading the book was HARD- first off, its everywhere you turn when you go into a bookstore (at least here in NYC). Secondly, Mallory had read it and loved it and told me about it and it really sounded like my kind of book. There was even one point where I read the first chapter but made myself stop because I didn’t want it to influence my view on the movie.
Thirdly, the movie took FOREVER to come out.

At first I got worried- movies stuck in post production hell are usually, well, horrible. But when I read the reasons why they were waiting such a long time to finish the movie off- one being they were waiting for Eric’s hair to grow back to reshoot some scenes and he had shaved it off for Star Trek- I felt a lot better. I had confidence in the movie again.

Tonight, I finally got to see it and let me start just by saying, plain and simple- I loved it. It wasn’t perfect and I remember even saying to myself one time, “wow this is saccharine” – but I still absolutely loved it all the same.

Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams sold the love story between Henry and Clare so well I was right there with them in every experience they shared. As well as every plethora of emotions they had to go through- whether it was striving to make their relationship work despite the time traveling, trying to figure out how Clare could carry a baby to full term, and especially grasping with the fact that they knew Henry would be shot and then die when their daughter, Alba, was five years old.

Eric & Rachel’s chemistry truly did not disappoint. For me, to appreciate a good love story, I need to feel that the actors lost themselves in it and that they truly loved each other on film. Eric & Rachel accomplished this. The way they looked into each others eyes, the way they smiled at each other and even their simplest interactions were terrific.

One of the best scenes that highlighted their connection for me was when Henry & Clare cried in each others arms after the first miscarriage. The way they were suffering and yet holding onto each other was amazingly shown.

I wound up having lots of favorite scenes, all very different from each other. One was Henry & Clare’s wedding- right before the ceremony, young Henry disappears and is replaced by older Henry-complete with gray hair and all. Younger Henry reappears at the reception and you can imagine just how confused the guests are.

The ending of the movie was one of my favorites as well, if not the very favorite. I was worried when I read that they had to re-shoot the ending because test audiences “did not get” the original one. The original ending was apparently the same as in the book- A younger Henry visits an old woman Clare, proving that even though he is dead he will always come back to her.

Here the ending is much more heartbreaking and I appreciated it all the more for it. I appreciated the tragedy of it because Henry and Clare’s relationship was never meant to be perfect and happy-go-lucky. From the beginning, their relationship was meant for tragedy. But all is not lost, either. Even though the ending breaks your heart, you still know that Henry can and will come back to her again.

I didn’t even fully realize it as it was happening, but I cried at the ending. Before I knew it, my face was wet and I was rubbing my eyes. Their relationship and the loss of it truly touched me.

Other things I loved were the use of the child actors playing little Henry, little Clare and Henry & Clare’s daughter, Alba. All were never that kind of annoying that most cutesy child actors are. They were all really great and added to the story with their performances. Eric Bana, especially, was wonderful in his scenes with them- I think probably because he is a father himself.

Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams

Eric Bana & Rachel McAdams

I have been a huge Eric Bana fan for years, but I had been waiting to see him in a romance that truly convinced me. And this certainly did.

His performance was amazing-  you could tell how hard it was for Henry to deal with the anomaly threatening his life and his relationships by simply seeing the emotions on Eric’s face.

Rachel was luminous in this role. If not for one part where they showed her naked back and you could see her entire spine (the audience all practically gasped at how thin she was), I would say she looked absolutely beautiful in every scene. Her eyes sparkled as Clare discovered Henry for the first time as a young adult and they dimmed when Clare had to suffer in her later years through the disadvantages of the time travel, such as the miscarriages.

The production did a wonderful job in taking Eric & Rachel through their different ages. Aside from Eric’s bad wig (though he still looked handsome), they did such great work creating these two characters in different times of their lives for the audience. There is one scene where a late 30s Henry visits an 18 year old Clare and I was astonished at how young Rachel McAdams looked.

Aside from the children, the supporting cast was quite small, which I thought was appropriate considering this was Henry & Clare’s story. The biggest name among them was Ron Livingston, who played Gomez. I had previously read that Gomez was blond and hot and evil. In the movie, he is none of these things, especially not hot. Sorry Ron. Anyhow, Gomez is pure comic relief and I can see now why they cast Ron in the role. They changed up Gomez’s character and purpose and I for one was thankful. I did not want to see any sexy times between him and Clare.

On that note, a lot of the time traveling was treated lightheartedly and the audience was always laughing as Henry arrived at different times naked again and again and got himself into various scrapes as he tried to obtain clothing. At the same time, though, they treated the time traveling as the inconvenience and tragedy it truly was. It was a good mix.

I don’t know how I would have felt about the movie as some one who had read the book, but again, I thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, the movie made me want to go and read the book right away. And now, I finally can.

Go and watch it. I recommend it to one and all- hopefully you will like it as much as I did.

Henry and Clare

Henry and Clare

The Adaptation, by Mallory
I always wind up reading a book before it’s adapted into a film. It never fails, even when I do it unintentionally. I read The Time Traveler’s Wife in 2007 after a few friends recommended it to me and I fell in love with the book. Naturally, this makes for a very annoying nagging in the back of my head during the movie, being ready to complain, “They left out so much!” (Forgive me if my memory is a little foggy about the prose, since I haven’t picked up the novel in two years.)

Well, they did leave out a lot, including most of Clare’s childhood and teen years, but I could see how could’ve been hard to translate on-screen without it seeming pedophilic. The film emphasizes Clare and Henry’s marriage and their struggles with a quarter of the back story provided in the book. Clarisse is practically window dressing with two lines and Ingrid kind of alluded to as random lipstick Clare finds in Henry’s bathroom, but only as “That’s been over for a long time.” Gomez (played by Ron Livingston. Yes, the guy from Office Space and Defying Gravity) goes from romantic rival to Henry’s ever-loyal BFF with no creepy romantic advances toward Clare, other than just telling her not to marry Henry in one scene.

Yeah, I didn’t see Livingston as Gomez either, but it works with the character’s new comedic moments. The novel is beautifully written and is very touching, but the film balances out the more emotional moments by making Henry’s naked and often violent/theft-filled time-traveling very humorous. His disappearances also prompt a funny “Oh, shit” from any character who realizes what just happened. Clare is a little needier than she is in the book, but not as much as the trailers for the movie showed. I panicked a little after hearing about the change to the ending, after test audiences were left confused and hated it. The new ending is in the meadow with Alba and it’s actually pretty good. The finale fits the movie, right down to the overall theme of waiting for Henry. (Look for a very odd mention of Gomez’s kids, which our audience laughed at.)

Aside from those changes, I was surprised by how loyal the movie was to the book and how well Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams fit into the roles of Henry and Clare. The actors who played their younger selves, including daughter Alba, were very charming and share resemblances to Bana and McAdams. This is definitely one of the better adaptations of a book that I’ve seen.

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