To swoon over the lovely Rachel McAdams or hunky Eric Bana is easy, but doing so during The Time Traveler’s Wife requires willful blindness to the sloppy nonsensicality of their across-the-years love story. The lifelong romance between Clare (McAdams) and Henry (Bana) begins when, at the age of six (specifically, at the instant of Mom’s death), he develops the habit of jumping randomly to the past and future. It’s a most curious case, especially given that Henry always shows up somewhere in time buck naked, and one that decidedly complicates his relationship with Clare, whom he begins visiting as a child and eventually, per the title, makes his bride. Why Henry is repeatedly drawn during his trips—“like gravity”—to Clare is a fundamental issue sidestepped by Robert Schwentke’s adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s bestseller, not to mention that it’s unclear why Henry has such a condition in the first place (token chitchat about genetics is hardly convincing). An absence of logic, even as it pertains to the rules established by the story’s central time-travel conceit, is largely absent from the gray Chicago-set proceedings, and consequently, so too is any serious emotional investment in these ill-fated lovers, whose problematic situation is mitigated by their stunning looks, impeccable clothing, and luxurious lifestyle courtesy of Henry’s lotto-number foresight. McAdams and Bana are a striking, well-matched pair, and though their chemistry is undermined by a script that defines their characters vis-à-vis the other rather than as distinct individuals, their rapport nonetheless tenuously holds the film together even as the director—apparently aiming to placate the source material’s fans—wastes time and energy on purposeless peripheral figures like Ron Livingston’s family friend. Time Traveler’s Wife grapples with many of same themes (time’s ephemeral nature, the enduring impact of love) as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, albeit with greater interest in the practical day-to-day complications arising from Henry’s unique malady, more sentimentality, and less artistic flair. Though for pure visual majesty, few sights compare to that of McAdams removing a blindfold to reveal a come-hither look, her gaze so sensual, sensitive, and full of longing, it alone suffices as the impetus for Bana’s otherwise-inexplicable time-hopping tendencies.
- Robert Schwentke
- Bruce Joel Rubin
- Eric Bana, Rachel McAdams, Ron Livingston, Arliss Howard, Stephen Tobolowsky
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