Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana, Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston
Bruce Joel Rubin (Novel by Audrey Niffenegger)
New Line (USA)
Nope. She's not the problem. In fact, she's quite delightful in "The Time-Traveler's Wife."
What about Eric Bana?
Nope, not him either. He and McAdams have quite the nice chemistry and, almost despite the material, together they make "The Time-Traveler's Wife" a watchable, if ridiculously convoluted, film.
What's missing is, well, for lack of a better word- "balls."
Based upon a novel by Audrey Niffenegger, which I'm hoping makes a lot more sense, "The Time-Traveler's Wife" avoids all the inherent edginess and excitement built into the material and rather lazily settles for being a rather stereotypical romantic weeper with lots of symbolic messages about lost love, innocence, faithfulness, blah blah blah.
In the film, Henry (Eric Bana) suffers from a rare genetic disorder that essentially causes him to spend his life traveling through time at any given moment, back and forth and roundabout, with barely a sense of when it will happen or where he will end up. He meets Clare (Rachel McAdams) when she is a child, during one of these time-traveling excursions and then pops back into her life when she's in college and their flirtation can truly begin.
Director Robert Schwentke ("Flightplan") appears as baffled by the material as do McAdams and Bana, who at least give it their best shot by serving up their trademark acting shticks that are generally effective even under the worst of circumstances. Along with a complete and utter lack of edginess given the unpredictability of the situation, Schwentke spends an inordinate amount of time sending Henry back to Clare as a child. While this never feels, shall we say, "taboo," there's an underlying creepiness to it that periodically invades the obviously desired sense of innocence.
Those who are going to embrace "The Time-Traveler's Wife" are either going to be diehard fans of the book, who already know what to expect, or those who simply are willing to abandon their sense of logic for Schwentke's desired sense of romantic abandon.
McAdams fares the best here, managing to give tremendous heart to a character whose actions and undying sense of fate seem misguided at best and nearly insane at worst. Clare truly believes that she and Henry are fated to be together, and she perseveres through his many disappearances and, as well, the film's other dour storyline of multiple miscarriages. Even when Clare doesn't make sense, McAdams is utterly enchanting and for her performance alone "The Time-Traveler's Wife" warrants a modest recommendation.
Bana, while possessing a marvelous chemistry with McAdams, is far too melancholy as Henry and is completely devoid of any of the life and spark that he showed in this summer's "Funny People." It's difficult to wonder if Clare doesn't suffer from a personality disorder, given her fierce devotion to a constantly exiting, melancholy partner such as Henry.
Scripted by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also penned "Ghost," "The Time-Traveler's Wife" is clearly aiming to be an adult romance alternative to the usual summer fare. Unfortunately, it's far too breezy to be taken seriously and way too creepy to ever allow an audience to surrender to the romance.
Tech credits are generally solid, though it's hard not to chuckle at Schwentke's struggle to bring emotion to Henry's repeated leaving, an act that always results in his loss of clothing and an act that grows weary rather quickly.
While "The Time-Traveler's Wife" will certainly hit the mark for a few folks, count this writer among those who were grateful when my time with Henry and Clare was up.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic