Cue the Queue: “The Time Traveler’s Wife”

You can tell that the film has a sci-fi twist because the actors aren't standing upright on the poster.

In this new segment, I highlight films that are available to watch on DVD, so that you know what to put in your Netflix queue.

As you may or may not know, yesterday was Mother’s Day. And because of that holiday, my mother got to pick a movie for us to watch that night. Her choice? A 2009 film called The Time Traveler’s Wife. Apparently, it’s based off of a book that she loves dearly, but I’ve never read it. The film stars Eric Bana as Henry, a man who has been spontaneously jumped through time since he was six years old. When we start the film, he meets Clare, played Rachael McAdams. Although he has never met Clare, she knows him. At some point in his future, he will jump back to when Clare was a child, and meet her for the first time. Although he lives his life linearly, he lives it in constant movement throughout time. Being a total geek, I found that concept easier to understand than my sisters, but I digress. On to the film.

It was…mediocre. The whole thing felt like a lot of missed opportunities. For instance, one of the caveats of time travel is that he can’t take clothes with him, much like the Terminator. Also like the Terminator, the first thing he does once he’s “landed” somewhere is to steal clothes. Now, why would you introduce a concept like that and not have some comedic moments? That kind of plot device is totally wasted here, and it feels like an unnecessary thing that was needed to make the time travel aspect more believable. Even if comedy wouldn’t be particularly appropriate, given that the film is blatantly a melodrama, it could have been used to greater effect. Speaking of which, one thing that I did appreciate about the film is that it was a melodrama. The term “melodramatic” is thrown around like an insult these days, and it is occasionally accurate. However, this film actually manages to pull it off for a while, but for only one reason: the time travel aspect. That in and of itself was enough to hold my interest for a good chunk of the film. However, something happens about two-thirds of the way through the movie that brought the whole thing crashing down. I won’t spoil it, but it has to do with something that changes Clare and Henry’s life, as well as another time traveler. That should spell it out for those who have seen the film. Once we got to that point, it felt as though the entire rest of the movie revolved around that one event. However, that event wasn’t interesting, and it distracted a lot from the main characters. Once that event happens, the whole movie falls apart under it’s own weight. It can no longer support it’s own concept. The movie had been doing fine with the whole time travel thing up until that point, and it did a great job of not pandering to the audience and telling them exactly what is going on, but rather letting them figure it out. But as soon as we get to that point, the film no longer interested me.

Another big missed opportunity is the development of Clare. The film should have focused much more on her, and how she deals with the stress of a constantly disappearing husband. We only ever see glimpses of this, and it was very disappointing to have her be such an underdeveloped character. I mean, isn’t she the title character?

As far as the performances go, they weren’t very good. Eric Bana was terrible, doing his best impression of Keanu Reeves. Really, if that’s what they were going for, they should have just hired Reeves. He can do it a lot better. Rachael McAdams is fine, but we never see enough of her to get a real sense of what she’s bringing to the character. As far as supporting performances go, Ron Livingston is wasted as the comic-relief best friend character who is not only barely in the movie, but is never given anything comedic to do. Overall, nothing special.

Fifty or sixty years ago, this film would have been praised for having a unique and revolutionary narrative structure. Unfortunately, in 2009, we had seen it all before. The film brings nothing new to the table, and doesn’t do a particularly good job doing it. Other than as a great date movie, there isn’t much reason to seek out this film.