August 14, 2009 in Features

Review: ‘Time Traveler’s Wife’ manages to lose its way

Christy Lemire Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Rachel McAdams plays Clare and Eric Bana plays the time-traveling Henry in New Line Cinema’s romantic drama “The Time Traveler’s Wife”.
(Full-size photo)

So let’s try to get this straight: In “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Eric Bana plays a guy named Henry who jumps around the past, present and future, only he can’t control where or when he goes.

Supposedly, he also can’t control how he gets back where he came from, except for when he tries certain tricks to place himself in a state of mind to time travel. Even then there’s no way to guarantee which version of Henry will show up: the same one who left or a younger or older version of himself.

Hunky as he is, he’d be a frustrating guy to fall in love with, or even date. Women like stability, you know.

But Rachel McAdams’ character, Clare, must be made of stronger stuff than the rest of us, because not only does she tolerate Henry’s pesky inconsistency, she believes he’s her destiny, and that he has been since the first time she saw him as a precocious 6-year-old girl.

Director Robert Schwentke’s film is based on Audrey Niffenegger’s best-selling novel. Maybe it’s more plausible on the written page – or maybe you just have to be a hopeless romantic, and willing to shut off the part of your brain that craves logic, to enjoy this.

Bana and McAdams try their best to win us over to this complicated conceit with enormously earnest performances.

McAdams shows some of the same dramatic capabilities that helped make her a star in “The Notebook.” As for Bana, this is a rare and welcome opportunity to see him him play the romantic lead, for which his dark good looks and strong presence would seem to make him a natural.

Still, we’re left wondering afterward, how do these people feel about this extraordinary situation in which they’ve found themselves? In theory, indeterminate time traveling would wreak havoc with even the most mundane daily activities: grocery shopping, sitting at a red light, parent-teacher conferences.

Speaking of which, Henry and Clare eventually have a daughter to whom they pass on the time-travel gene, but it doesn’t seem to bother the kid, either. Really? You’re 5 years old, playing hopscotch with your buddies during recess, and poof! You disappear. Wouldn’t that be slightly disturbing?

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” doesn’t seem interested in crawling inside her head, either. It’s too busy trying to tug at our hearts.

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