“The Time Traveler’s Wife”
STARRING: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
PLAYING AT: Area theaters
This bastardization of beloved bestsellers has got to stop, Hollywood. In the golden days of cinema, you complimented books like “Gone with the Wind” and “Rebecca” with pitch-perfect film counterparts. But things have gone way, way downhill since the death of the attention span and the advent of CGI. And when you fudge a 560-page opus well-loved by its readers like “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” you can’t expect good things to come.
Audrey Niffenegger’s book about Henry DeTamble, the time-traveling Egon Schiele of a librarian and his redheaded artist wife Clare , has been turned into a big-budget, B-list summer romance starring actors who look nothing like their novel descriptions. Rachel McAdams is a bona fide decent actress, but Eric Bana? Not so much. He was a poor portrayal of King Henry VIII in “The Other Boleyn Girl” and he doesn’t put forth a more convincing face as Henry DeTamble, either. Maybe Hollywood likes to cast him in roles he’s totally wrong for, like a redheaded king or the Hulk . Henry should have been more angular, perhaps an Adrien Brody type. Adam’s brunette hair does not convey the long red tresses of Clare, which are a pivotal part of her character; she’s described in print as a “Botticelli.”
There’s no chemistry, no undying passion between Bana and McAdams, and the dialogue they’re given is stilted and cringe-worthy, almost akin to the lovey bits in a “Star Wars” chapter. Anyone over the age of 15 can’t help but snark at what’s supposed to be touching.
Could an indie studio have done better justice? It’s possible, though in all honesty the complexities of the book would have presented problems for any adaptation.
The novel version of “The Time Traveler’s Wife” was the kind of tome that sweeps its reader up with skillful prose, and its film counterpart lacks the raw emotion clearly visible in each chapter of the novel. Because it’s a film adaptation in an era where audiences don’t have the patience for four-hour films like “Gone with the Wind,” there are hugely important chunks of plot missing, chunks that would have lent a more fully-realized sense of cause and effect.
Whereas book Clare was passive, a Penelope of sorts waiting for her time-traveling Odysseus, movie Clare has been given a semi-backbone, but all she comes off as is a shrew. Bana’s Henry is wooden, falsely pensive. You can’t feel for them because they’re irritating cardboard cutouts of the more flesh-and-blood characters Niffenegger created.
Broken Social Scene makes a cameo covering Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” and the set design is ELLE Décor-worthy, but that’s all that’s redeeming about “The Time Traveler’s Wife.” It’s a shell of a romance, empty of the poetry that made the book such a testament to love that triumphs even time.
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