Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife (12a)

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Henry is a time travelling librarian. Claire is an artist, who first met him when she was six years old, and he travelled to the meadow in which she was playing. However, Henry doesn’t meet Claire for the first time until he’s 28, when the 20 year old Claire walks into his life armed with a 14 year friendship she’s had with him, but he has yet to live. And so begins one of the oddest romances in (literally) history.

8 times and counting. That’s how many times I’ve read the book. The episodic structure of the novel is such that it’s easy to dip in and out of, even if you’re reading other things. You can quite easily spend an hour or a day with Henry and Claire whenever you wish. I don’t say that it is the best book ever written (if you’re looking for prose that will make you cry with joy, look to Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece, Lolita), but it is without doubt, my favourite book of all time.

When I found out that they were making a movie of the book, my initial reaction was how? There’s far too much to cram into a two hour movie. Surely they’d be better making a mini-series? The fact is, that they leave a lot of things out of the movie. Characters who you’d assume would be quite important are given very little screen time, or excised completely. Also, the ending of the novel isn’t used, only the spirit of the ending. The book’s ending was filmed, however, so maybe it’ll turn up as a DVD extra for all the purists out there.

The movie though, is superb. It’s perfectly cast, and instead of concentrating on every minute detail that made the book a joy to read, it concentrates solely on the boy-meets-girl-out-of-time concept, and plays out a love story over an evening-sized slice of time.

Lots of people have complained that their favourite part from the book isn’t in it (Rachel’s disastrous first date with another man and Henry’s revenge for it, The Gomez situation, Ingrid, Christmas at Meadowlark etc) but really, there is enough in this movie to sustain it and to give any newcomers to the story a decent enough reason to run off and read the book to fill in the blanks. Those people especially are in for a treat, as while the movie does have it’s moments of high drama, there is a noticeable lack of darkness, which the book has in spades. Also kudos must go to Bruce Joel Rubin for the writing of a brand new scene featuring a time travelling Henry and his mother on a subway train, which slots in perfectly to the TTW universe.

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Rachel McAdams makes a stunning Claire, her scenes revolving around the pregnancy issues they have are completely believable and heartfelt. Early reports suggested Eric Bana wasn’t up to snuff in his performance of Henry. I can only assume those reviewers had been watching a very rough cut, as I thought he was fantastic. Special mention also to Arliss Howard as Henry’s dad, and Stephen Tobolowsky as Kendrick, who both go to demonstrate how scenes can be stolen with very limited screen time.

For everyone who’s going in expecting the book, lower your expectations. It isn’t the book. What it is, is a condensed version of the main love story from the book, played out perfectly with respect for the text. I am an obsessive fan of the book and I enjoyed the movie immensely. If I want the book, I’ll read the book. My imagination is perfectly capable of providing me with the visuals I need. However, from now on, if I want to spend an evening with the DeTambles and let someone else do the work, I’ll be watching the movie.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Review: The Time Traveler’s Wife (12a)

  1. Pingback: The Time Traveler's Wife (In Cinemas Now) « Electro Candy

  2. Immersive

    That’s a shame, really. From the first paragraph of the review, I had thought that FINALLY someone would realize the movie was completely flawed. Loving Lolita, reading this… you really sound like a stand-up individual, someone who knows his/her head around what is worthy of attention. Unfortunately, it seems you, too, are a rube.

    Henry was portrayed as being a rough, brooding philistine, completely detached in a way that is unforgivable. Both his and Claire’s intellect was lost. They’re just your two average day common folk – not the brainy, pretentious, love-all-things-nerdy Claire and Henry that have dialogue exchanges that make us all glow from the inside out.

    Despite the fact that it took something deep and turned it into the MOST shallow representation possible by excluding all context, it was simply a bad movie. It was your average chick-flick. It was entirely a nothing, trite, forgettable film.

    If you can say you’d rather watch that monstrosity of a “movie” rather than read the terrific writing of Niffenegger, I can’t imagine the litany of literary failures that will take place in your future.

    • Adam Roche

      Hi there. I don’t actually think I said I’d rather watch the movie than read the book. I think I made the point that it’s a way of getting your Henry and Claire kicks in 107 minutes if you so desire, with a glass of wine and no effort involved.
      As for the missed characterizations, I agree with you. At the end of the day though, this was always going to be a chick flick, a genre I’m not usually a fan of. Perhaps it’s just because it’s this story that causes me to make an exception this time. Either way, I stand by what I said because personally I enjoyed the film. When all’s said and done, I can only tell you what I think of the film, not what you’ll think of it.
      If you hated it, thought it was flawed, then that’s your privilege. It’s a shame though that you have to resort to attempting to insult, no matter how gently, people who disagree with you. I don’t consider myself a rube, and am rather proud of my literary choices thus far (apart from Two Little Boys, obviously…)
      Anyway, thanks for your comment. It’s always good to hear from people who are passionate about books, especially this one.

      • Billy Goodgun

        I also thoroughly enjoyed the film. I have read the book a mere three times, and agree with you both that it’s undoubtedly better than the film.

        However, I have to side with Mr Roche here. If I may quote directly from the text of the review above, “It isn’t the book. What it is, is a condensed version of the main love story from the book, played out perfectly with respect for the text.” Absolutely. The scene on the subway alone supports this faithfulness of spirit, even though the film was never going to be a painstaking replication of the novel’s scenes.

        I have a sneaking suspicion that I enjoyed this film because I’ve read the novel, not despite the fact I’ve read it. I was able to flesh out the characters and re-insert the narrative omissions based on what I knew from Niffenegger’s work. Not everyone will have this luxury; not everyone will take pleasure from this film. But I did – and that, surely, is what matters? For me, it was like spending time with old friends once more, and I missed Henry and Clare every bit as much, and all over again, once the final credits rolled.

        It seems excessively churlish to label the reviewer a “rube” simply because you disagree with the review. Everyone’s opinion is their own; interpretation and subjectivity in art will always be a divisive issue. Perhaps the darkness and weight of the novel hasn’t been translated to the screen, but then perhaps this holds more or less significance depending on the reader in question. Maybe the reasons I enjoyed the book or Mr Roche enjoyed the book are different to the reasons others enjoyed it – same goes for the film.

        A great review for a great film, adapted from one of my all-time favourite works of fiction. Need I say more?

  3. Pingback: The Time Traveler’s Wife to come to TV? « Electro Candy

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