Monday, March 29, 2010

The Time Traveler's Wife

A couple of years ago, on the recommendations of several friends, and CByrd, I read Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife. It's a really, really great book. It's an unabashed romance, but it also contains enough high-concept sci-fi (but not hard sci-fi), that it really sparked my imagination. Niffenegger also was smart enough to set good rules for Henry's time displacement, and follow logically how that would impact his life, and the lives of those around him.

I really liked the book. It was also a bit of a sensation, so a movie deal was inevitable.

When the film came out last August, I did, actually want to see it. (Yes, I occasionally like a good "chick flick.") However, the delicate way in which Niffenegger crafted her novel, the mental gymnastics of where and when Henry (Eric Bana) is, and which Henry he is, as well as Claire's (Rachel McAdams) inner life while she waits for him to reappear, seemed like something difficult to translate. What a book can take pages and pages to get across, a movie must do with a look or a single line.

Every novel-to-film adaptation faces these same challenges. Some fly to something far greater than the origins (The Godfather), and some just crash and burn (there's a hundred examples). as I read The Time Traveler's Wife, I was just struck, over and over again, by how difficult this adaptation would be.

Well, let me say this....It's not as good as the book.

It's also not, however, a bastardization of it, either. The story is identifiable, the film changes a few elements, but maintains a sense of inevitability. That was one of the most interesting things about the book for me, I was terribly worried that the film would soft-pedal some of the more intense elements of the novel. It doesn't, not enough to change the story, anyway.

I like Bana and McAdams quite a bit as Henry and Claire, they shared some real chemistry. I keep waiting for Bana to really let loose the kind of charisma he has in his early Australian films, like Chopper, but he seems held back. Perhaps it's maintaining an American accent. He's fine, not amazing, but he more than fulfills the needs of this film.

McAdams is a fine romantic lead. Again, it's not like she's jaw-droppingly good, but she does what she needs to do. Not hard to look at, either.

If you're a fan of the book, you'll find things to quibble over. I sure did, but at the same time...a book is a book, and a movie is a movie. I fond this a perfectly acceptable adaptation of a book I quite loved.

I give it 3 of 5 stars.

However, go read the book. It's so, so worth it.


  1. Yeah, the book IS great, one of the few popular novels that deserved every bit of its popularity. Haven't seen the movie, yet, but definitely on my list. My favorite Bana moment? In "Munich," when he's on the phone to his wife and -- it's been a while since I saw the film, so I may get the exact catalyst wrong --and he hears his kid's voice and just breaks down. But he doesn't want his wife to know, so he chokes back his tears. I had to reverse and re-watch that moment a half-dozen times. Didn't see that in "The Hulk" (but liked it, too).

  2. "Munich" is just a great, great movie. Bana is fantastic in it, too. One performance where that early promise bears out. It's also a movie I hold up to anyone who thinks Spielberg has lost his touch. It's one of his best films, ever.