Saturday, September 05, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife

Grab the Bacon the Next Time You're Back

The Time Traveler's Wife is one book that I've always wanted to read, but just didn't find the time to get down doing so. I suppose with some travels later this month and the next I would be able to read what friends have been positively talking about, and I'm especially intrigued about the component of time travel here, in how it could wreck crazy havoc in a romantic couple's life since nobody knows how and when one of them could just come and go randomly. Which of course sounds like what anyone can do these days if you're tired of hanging around with someone else, and I'm sometimes guilty of that as well.

Like many, I thought this film was a troubled project because of the tremendous delay it took to get itself seen in the light of day, and I've read that it was because Eric Bana had to have his hair grow back after his Star Trek stint that led to delays. Reviews for the film has not been as stellar as those for the book, so I suppose not having read it yet would already allow me to start from a clean slate as opposed to comparing what author Audrey Niffenegger had written and what millions of readers have envisioned in their mind, that perfect filmic interpretation from scenes down to questioning why Rachel McAdams was chosen for the heavyweight role of the titular character who's going through the strangest, relationship-wrecking experience nobody should be.

Well, for once, the point of view had been changed. If what I've glanced from the book would have suggested that it was written, diary style from the point of Claire (and hence the title), it has now been changed to that of the time traveler himself, Henry (Eric Bana), who suffers from what is deemed to be genetics when his fits would cause him to time travel very randomly, forward or backwards, and through space as well. The only constant seemed to be the preference to find himself back in his favourite spots quite frequently, and hence his ability to meet his future wife Claire when she was still a child (OK people, junk those pedophilic thoughts aside), and to visit his deceased mom whom he misses dearly.

The first half of the film dealt firmly with basis of his condition, and that of the developing romance between Claire (McAdams) and Henry, who are so close physically yet so far in emotion, because one obviously had known the other almost her whole life, while the other is only just discovering what he would do in the future. Whatever happens next is pretty standard fare of any romantic story, sans the time travelling piece of course, which serves up the additional spice of a subplot in not always being there when needed, for festivities and such. One can imagine how big a deal it is to even be able to miss certain milestones in one's life, only to have some other you attend it on your behalf. Call it a cheat if you must.

Which of course means that the viewer have to accept the time travel paradox, which the narrative tried to explain away by saying that Henry has absolutely no control over events that Fate deemed would happen, so there's no fear in changing the course of history, or the future, by just interacting with people, or doing anything that would thwart the entire space-time continuum. So accept that please, otherwise you'll be asking too many questions since there are multiple Henrys in the same timeline. The only way to get through this is to hold some things constant and allow it to become the crux of the entire time-mess (not only 1 person time travels, mind you), so that constant and reference comes from the point of view of Claire.

What I had enjoyed more than the standard romantic angle between the lead characters, are those of its subplots revolving around the blessed aspects of the condition, besides having to arrive naked and spend the crucial first few minutes in protection of modesty through breaking and entering. The subplots involving that of travelling back to spend some crucial, important moments with loved ones who have gone too prematurely, is something that is highly touching in the film. How we sometimes yearn to have that little extra more time to be be someone special, is probably how it would be played out if we're given the same opportunity, in telling them we miss and love them. I thought this aspect, happening to and for Henry, was one of the stronger points in the film that would likely bring a tear to those with soft hearts.

The sadder moments, besides the fact that McAdams and Bana struggled to find that perfect chemistry given the relatively lack of screen time in the same frame, involved the concept of eternally waiting for someone to appear and return. Without the time travel component, I believe those who have experienced those random disappearing acts of someone else, would likely identify with this, as would Henry's selfless act of wanting Claire not to wait.

The narrative had enough moments to point the audience to the inevitable, and there's nothing worse than to anticipate the morbid to happen, both for the characters, and the audience. For the characters, having prior knowledge could reap advantages in being able to plan for certain events, and I suppose being ready is half the battle won. Then again as an audience, we constantly hope that things would change for the better, and it is this constant interaction of hope that would engage you throughout the last act

If there's a complaint, it's how director Robert Schwentke failed to make Eric Bana look different between 20-30-40 years of age, save for some shots of grey hair, and moments where he asked/got asked what age / which year. This may prove to be slightly frustrating as you try and piece together the current timeline on screen (didn't help with its shifts), or when a different Henry comes on screen and you'd have to wait for an answer. Nonetheless as a romance movie, this has one of the more unique romantic stories that full credit goes to the author, and would want you to pick up the book to find out exactly what you are missing.

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