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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Time Traveler's Wife (The)

I do quite a bit of time traveling myself, so I’d like to think I can understand the problems of The Time Traveler’s Wife. It can’t be easy being stuck at home while your husband if off gallivanting God-only-knows where or when. Should you make that tuna noodle casserole for two or just plunk yourself down on the couch for the evening, have some Boone’s Farm, put your feet up, and debate whether you should wax your bikini line while you’re watching Jon and Kate hate on one another while they strain to act like they don’t want to gut the other in front of that herd of free-range brats they call a family.

The Time Traveler’s Wife has a lot of headaches. She also has the burden of listening patiently to her husband coming home and telling her all about his adventures in time while she’s been stuck at home living life in the usually-dull present. Blah, blah, blah. Nobody likes to hear about other people’s vacations, but with the Time Traveler of the title in The Time Traveler’s Wife movie, he also has the added excitement of showing up wherever he “lands” completely naked, so his first job always has to be scurrying off to find something to wear, which is sure to give him some funny stories to share with the Missus when he gets home.

This nudity angle is a whole new wrinkle I’ve never encountered with time travel myself, but I prefer to do my jaunting about with The Doctor, and if you have to ask “Doctor Who?” then you are
tragically out of the loop when it comes to time travel, and yet, ironically, you’ve answered your own question. Anyone who travels with The Doctor does so in the TARDIS, his wonderfully eccentric time machine, and it manages to get its passengers where they are going completely ensembled and with the knowledge of where and when they are going to. Not so much so for Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana; Star Trek), the husband of The Time Traveler’s Wife, but, then again, Henry doesn’t use a machine to travel. It seems he is the recipient of a genetic aberration his doctor dubs a “chrono displacement syndrome.” It tends to make him randomly vanish in the nude and reappear that same way, leaving whatever he was wearing behind. Fortunately, even though he doesn’t know exactly where he is going to jump to, it always seems to end up being in a deserted alley, a bushy meadow, or a closed department store, somewhere where his nudity will not immediately cause a public scandal or lead to his arrest. There is a huge bit of the “eeeewwww” factor to all of this though because one of the frequent places Henry visits in the past is his future wife Clare (Rachel McAdams; State of Play) when she is just a girl of six or so (played by Brooklynn Proulx; Shelter). I don’t care if they are going to be married twenty years in the future, there is still something not-so-nice about a naked man trying to coax a little girl to bring him a blanket to cover up with while he is standing behind a shrub in the middle of an otherwise deserted field. It could give people ideas.

If my cousin Stanley sees this movie I’m sure we’ll find him starkers at the local schoolyard in no time, explaining to the cops that he’s just a time traveler meaning no harm. Knowing Stanley, he’ll probably try to explain away a certain *ahem* protruding organ of his pointing straight into the faces of the kindergarteners in the sandbox where he was prowling as a sort of GPS device leading him to the nearest time portal… just before he takes off running. He’s like that. I’m sorry to say, but he is, and I digress.

Unlike my friend The Doctor, Henry appears to be tethered to his own lifetime when it comes to his traveling, and so he bounds about throughout his own timeline, often crisscrossing his own existence and bumping into himself or rescuing himself from awkward situations. As for Clare, her life should be like that of a lottery winner thanks to having a husband who can often tell ahead of time what she wants since he has seen their future together and can anticipate even her smallest craving.

Unfortunately, this being a romance, there has to be room for a few weepy parts too, and
The Time Traveler’s Wife is no exception, so not all of Clare’s desires can be easily granted, but I can’t really explain that to you without giving away important parts of the plot, and my friend Dale says she refuses to read any of my ramblings here because I always spoil too much of the important action, so for her and everyone else, I’m going to do my best from now on to say absolutely nothing about the movie except whether it is any good or not, which ought to make these bits a lot shorter, eh?

To that end, I’ll say that
The Time Traveler’s Wife is occasionally a bit confusing because of the
convoluted timeline, probably more convoluted than it needs to be, but Rachel McAdams is asbeautiful and vulnerable looking as she can be (which is plenty), and even though Bana is banal as usual he can get away with it because his role is to represent the unattainable perfect man, and since I’m already married to the only one of those in existence he is only going to come off as a poor copy no matter how hard he tries. Instead, he has his ass to fall back on, literally, and he does a lovely job of flashing that whenever the shift calls for it.

Overall, as messy as The Time Traveler’s Wife sometimes appears to be, it could be worse. The book, by Audrey Niffenegger, is a whole lot dirtier and weirder than the movie (including a bit excised from the film where Henry goes back in time to have sex with himself, an experience you’ll probably have to buy the DVD for if you want to see it), so this screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin (The Last Mimzy) is tame and straightforward (relatively) all things considered. Even so, there’s no way to deny that this is a “chick flick” from beginning to end and it is meant to be, so whether you see it today, tomorrow or last week (if you’ve got that ability) make sure to bring a hanky. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

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