Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife **1/2

Director: Robert Schwentke
Cast: Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams
Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard, Jane McLean, Stephen Tobolowsky

Physics usually makes high school students weep, but the theory behind "The Time Traveler's Wife" is that the lack of physics can also make one shed a tear.
Adapted from the bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger it deals with the doomed romance between, artist, Clare (McAdams) and Henry (Bana) who's a time traveler.
Suffering from an uncontrollable genetic disorder that causes his cells to travel through time, Henry suddenly vanishes and appears naked (his clothes can't travel, something that might inspire jokes about his "Hulk" pants) in a random place and year.
During one of these travels he meets six year old Clare who falls in love with him even though when they meet chronologically years later he has no idea who she is.
It was another version of him who met her. This peculiarity is one of the film's most used dramatic triggers as future Henry comes with warnings and past Henry comes with the looks and tight butt.
When he eventually marries Claire (no spoilers, it's in the title...) present Henry disappears, only to have future Henry-complete with grey hair-save the day and cause his friend Gomez (a pretty annoying Livingston) to say he looks like his grandfather.
Truth is he doesn't, in fact if it wasn't for the dialogues you would never know what Henry is coming from what time frame. This is because the movie desperately needs to be pretty.
It disregards things that might seem too pessimist, like coherent scientific theories to back it up for starters, and dedicates itself to the beauty of its lead stars and all the tearjerking potential it has within.
Therefore we are supposed to be pissed when Henry misses Christmas and sob a little when Clare discovers he might inherit his condition to their children.
The plot doesn't care to discuss more serious matters like the creepy fact that Henry flirts with a six year old or that nobody seems to be surprised by the time traveling five minutes after meeting him.
But who has time for this when there's McAdams looking so luminous or Bana so mischievously hunky?
McAdams makes Clare someone we can root for, but never get to feel involved with, yet the spark in her eyes whenever she sees Henry is enough to forgive her flaws.
Bana gives an amazing performance that often overcomes the plot's limitations. He embodies loneliness with heartbreaking resignation, every time he travels there is a sense of loss in his eyes that says more than any of the trite lines he's given.
Watching the two of them suffer over things that defy the slightest logic it's impossible not to feel guilty about being moved by things so obviously designed to stir up emotion.
The film may not be good, but it knows what it's doing and sticks to the knowledge that the idea of separate lovers will only make the ones in the movie theater snuggle closer.

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