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The Time Traveler’s Wife: Flash in Pan or Classic?

by Anne Thompson
August 12, 2009 2:02 AM
11 Comments
  • |
Thompson on Hollywood


With very few impediments to romance left in conventional storytelling, writers are forced to add a touch of fantasy or sci-fi to create artificial barriers to love.

Like: your perfect mate is a vampire (Twilight).

Or: you’re getting younger as your true love gets older (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button).

Or: the man you love keeps disappearing into another time, including your own past (The Time Traveler’s Wife).

Time travel is also a way to cheat another pesky issue that gets in the way of true romance: death.

1990’s Ghost, starring Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze, is a classic of this genre. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, who also adapted The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Other classic time travel romances include The Time Machine (1960, Rod Taylor and Yvette Mimieux), the Richard Matheson adaptation Somewhere in Time (1980, Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve) and The Lake House (2006, Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock).

Will The Time Traveler’s Wife be a keeper? Tracking suggests that it will perform modestly this weekend, under $20 million, and that interest, naturally, is highest among older women, never a reliable group. But the Audrey Niffenegger book was a bestseller, and word-of-mouth may be more upbeat than critics will have you think. Early reviews are trending rotten. Women are more likely to pay attention to reviews.

The movie is directed with conviction by German Robert Schwentke, who did a sturdy job with the Jodie Foster thriller Flightplan. Remarkably, Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams breathe life into this implausible scenario of a man popping through time with no explanation of how or why he turns up where he does. It almost works.

Here's the trailer. The movie opens Friday.


11 Comments

  • Marilyn S. | April 27, 2010 8:38 AMReply

    I am currently reading the book "The Time Travelers Wife," and if it is anything like the movie then I am sure to love it. It is amazing how one person can wait for their true love their whole life. While bouncing from time to time, future to past. This is a interesting love movie/story because it is not the typical romance. It is more then that.

  • Keith G | August 13, 2009 2:57 AMReply

    Comments by the director about changing the ending to "make it right" are troubling me, since I thought the book was pretty much perfect as it was. He's also trying to distance himself from the Science Fiction label, although the book is pretty light on that anyway.

  • Brian | August 13, 2009 2:30 AMReply

    The reviewer in the Village Voice mentioned another film like it that I should have thought of, esp. since it's one of my favorites and I actually re-watched it two weeks ago! PORTRAIT OF JENNIE (1948), in which a painter (Joseph Cotten) meets a young girl (Jennifer Jones) on a snowy afternoon in Central Park and encounters her regularly every few weeks thereafter, noting that she's a few years older every time he sees her until she's old enough to take back to his studio apartment to have her sit for a portrait (among other things). Great movie and filled with amazing scenes shot on location in Central Park and other great NYC sites. Check out Jones and Cotten skating on the frozen pond in the Southeast corner of the park.

  • paige | August 13, 2009 1:48 AMReply

    the book was excellent... therefore i cannot see the movie being completely terrible.

  • Anne Thompson | August 12, 2009 6:12 AMReply

    Yeah, The Time Machine isn't centered on the romance, but our hero is pretty taken with Mimieux...The Lake House is pretty cool, with the letter-writing through time. I never saw Premonition. Worth seeing?

    BTW, if this means anything, 19-year-old Nora HATED TTTW. It's a guilty pleasure. It's like a cheesy M. Night Shyamalan movie that makes no sense whatsoever, and yet it's well executed. My instinct is that women are starving for this stuff.

  • john | August 12, 2009 5:57 AMReply

    how about sandra bullock's more thriller-esque premonition? marketed poorly, but a decently made film. a nice turn for sandra after a more light-hearted "The Lake House".

    "Linda Hanson (Sandra Bullock) has a beautiful house, a loving husband and two adorable daughters. Her life is perfect, until the day she gets the devastating news that her husband Jim (Julian McMahon) has died in a car accident. When she wakes up the next morning to find him alive and well, she assumes it as all a dream. Or was it? Racing against time and fate, Linda will stop at nothing to discover the true meanings of reality and destiny."

  • Brian | August 12, 2009 5:48 AMReply

    I forgot about Stanley Kwan's ROUGE (1987), in which two lovers, Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung, engage in a suicide pact in 1930s Hong Kong. Her ghost appears in 1980s HK looking for her lover, who never showed up in the afterlife. A couple of reporters try to help her by finding out what happened to him. Beautiful, sad movie. Even sadder, both stars died in 2003, one by suicide (Leslie) and one by cancer (Anita).

  • Brian | August 12, 2009 5:37 AMReply

    THE TIME MACHINE (1960) is a bit of a stretch. It's not really about their romance, an aspect of it that was deliberately underplayed, as I recall. It's more about the efforts of George (Rod Taylor) to save the passive, cannibal-fodder humans of the future and inspire them to take charge of their lives.

    QUEST FOR LOVE (1971) is a British sci-fi romance about a scientist in contemporary England who, after the shock of an experiment, finds himself in an alternate universe much like his own, but with slight differences (e.g. WWII never occurred). His alternate self is in a loveless marriage with a beautiful woman (Joan Collins) and he falls in love with her in a way his alternate self was unable to. When a shock sends him back to his own universe, he desperately looks for her counterpart in his (our) universe. Beautiful movie and the alternate universe angle is kept simple and easy to follow and is filled with clever details. No special effects were involved at all.

    LOVE IN THE TIME OF TWILIGHT (1995) is a Hong Kong film directed by Tsui Hark (ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA) about two would-be lovers (played by Nicky Wu and Charlie Yeung) who are destined to meet at a festival ritual for finding mates, but are thwarted when the man is killed in a robbery. His ghost finds the woman and convinces her to go back in time with him to the festival to try to change history. The robber's ghost has a similar idea. Mind-boggling, imaginative, suspenseful, funny, and very intense. Way different in tone and style from GHOST.

    An older female friend saw a press screening of TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE on Monday and these are quotes from her e-mail to me: "...one of the worst films of all time....Made no sense at all...where do they get the $$$ to make this junk?....What a waste of time and money...."

  • Ryan Sartor | August 12, 2009 4:48 AMReply

    I'm really pumped for this movie. Great trailer. Great use of a song, too. Rachel McAdams can do no wrong in my book. Although, "The Lucky Ones" wasn't too great.

  • Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist | August 12, 2009 4:15 AMReply

    Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams look so cute together. It could be a good film...

  • john | August 12, 2009 4:03 AMReply

    while i'm not a big fan of this genre, eric bana is a terrific actor. i'll probably wait until dvd, but hoping this does well for the actors.

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