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Thursday
Aug132009

The Time Traveler's Wife

If there's one genre in cinema that needs a complete overhaul, it's romance. It is incredibly difficult to make an authentic romance movie that features an endearing story that tugs at your heartstrings, either through happiness for a kindling romance or heartbreak over a tragedy. The latest to tackle the genre is The Time Traveler's Wife, which refreshingly breaks convention and attempts to do something fresh and new, but fails miserably. What could have been a unique take on the tired genre ends up as a maudlin, overbearingly melodramatic flick that manipulates your emotions from the get go, and doesn't even do that particularly well.

Henry (Eric Bana) is a time traveler. As a young six year old boy, he discovered his unique power as he disappeared in front of his mother's eyes, reappearing seconds later outside of the car they were traveling in only to see a truck smash into it, killing his mom instantly. Confused and grief-stricken, an older Henry appears and tells him there is nothing he can do about it and explains what happened, that he traveled through time. Years later, he meets Clare (Rachel McAdams) in a library. He doesn't know her, but she knows everything about him and claims to have known him since she was a little girl. It turns out a future version of himself had gone to see her and she has waited her whole life to finally run into him. Naturally, their romance kindles and they eventually get married, but because of his random disappearances to other times, of which he cannot control, their marriage becomes a tumultuous ride, testing the power of their love.

If that sounds like schlock to you, then you have a keen perception of just how dumb this movie is. It's a cornball flick that strangely left me feeling cold. I'm a huge sap and although I may not necessarily cry in every movie, I tend to choke up in anything remotely sad, but not in this. I barely got goose bumps and that's only because I was sitting under a fan blowing out cold air. In a well done movie, the tragedy that befalls these characters would be heartrending. In schmaltzy tripe like this, it comes off as silly.

Take away its gag inducing drivel of teary-eyed manipulation and you still have a movie with so many inconsistencies that it makes you wonder if the writers took the time to think about it at all. Allow me to pick apart some key phrases of dialogue that go against the very fabric of this movie's existence. In an early scene with his father, Henry explains that he can't control when or where he goes back in time. He also says that he cannot change what happens in the future while he is in the past, which begs the question, if he is actually there, how does that work?

As a time traveler, his physical tangibility implies that he could indeed change things through his actions. Never mind the innumerable amount of paradoxes his constant jumping back and forth would create, but consider for a moment how easy it would be to simply talk to someone and avoid the supposed foregone conclusions of future events. At one point in the movie, he jumps to a time when he was only three years old and he runs into his mother on the subway, introducing himself, but playing coy to the fact that he is her son. He may not be able to make it in time to save her from the crash, but why not just tell her right there what happens and then offer her proof that he is a time traveler, a proof he gives numerous other people throughout the movie, thus saving her life?

It's a confusing argument, I know, but the film is confusing enough itself if, God help you, you try to piece together the rips in the space time continuum that these constant jumps would inevitably cause. The flick has a science fiction bend to it and I'm willing to go along with the idea that Henry can travel through time, but the rules of it must be abided by. The simple truth is this: going back in time and interacting with anybody at all will change the future, but that doesn't happen here. The film may be different, but it's not authentic and that is its problem.

The Time Traveler's Wife is a nauseating romance movie, with hardly a redeeming quality. There are many more headaches to be found other than the ones listed above, including dialogue that felt like it was ripped from a Lifetime movie and acting akin to bad soap operas, complete with an over emphasis of emotions and long, awkward stares that are supposed to be endearing, but come off as kind of weird. This mawkish film is rubbish through and through and it carries an absurd premise that doesn't fail because it's unrealistic, but because it's handled so negligently. Once it gets to the unintentionally uproarious notion of time traveling fetuses, you'll have long since checked out.

Maybe my heart isn't quite as innocent as I thought, reserving a little corner of darkness where contempt and hatred lie. Or maybe The Time Traveler's Wife is a terrible film. I'd like to believe it's the latter.

The Time Traveler's Wife receives 0.5/5

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