Monday, February 22, 2010

Time Traveler's Wife Movie Review

Gratuitous Wendy Photo

Warning – Major spoilers.

The Time Traveler’s Wife is one of my favorite novels of all time, and being the voracious reader I am, that’s high praise.

Wendy pointed out that maybe that is because I identify so much with Henry. We have a lot of similarities.

1. We need to run or we die.
2. Drinking releases anxiety.
3. When too much anxiety happens, we disappear.
4. Women love us. (I’m sorry but it’s true. :-)
5. Other stuff I don’t feel like going into.

The movie didn’t get very good reviews but, I had to see it. I kept some twitter like notes while I watched it which I will now clean up and add to.

I should preface a few things. If you are going to do a movie adaption of any work of fiction, you can change things, but some things need to remain true to the original source. Let’s take Batman for instance. He has some things that everyone knows about him, and while you might change his origins, history, or abilities, there are some things you CANNOT change.

1. He doesn’t and won’t wield a gun.
2. He has to have a cape.
3. He has to work at night and be scary to criminals.
4. He doesn’t have any super-powers. No super strength, no flying, no invulnerability, no heat vision.
5. He has a Batmobile.
6. He throws Batarangs, not clubs, not bullets, not bowling pins.

These are things you know about Batman. Stick to that, and you might have a successful movie. Change any of that and why the Hell did you buy the rights to Batman?

Blog notes begin now.

Beginning – I love it. Seeing Henry with his mom as she sings makes a nice beginning despite the change. As I get older, I realize that movies cannot be exactly as you expect them. I accept the changes as much as I can, it’s an alternate reality. His mom dies differently, but I don’t care. It’s not important.

Henry looks gaunt like he’s supposed to and ruggedly handsome like he’s supposed to instead of pretty boy like I thought Eric Bana would look. He looks like he’s lost weight for the role. He looks perfect.

He looks dragged down, like he’s having a rough time when he first meets Claire, just like he’s supposed to.

Claire looks like an actress I know, then she becomes Claire. First conversation is okay. I feel like I’m seeing the book.

Okay, enough with the time jumping already, we get it. He time travels, stop over-emphasizing it.

Okay, wait, what? She can’t tell him about Doctor Kendricks and he’s not supposed to drink at their first meeting, WTF? He’s not supposed to drink when they try different medications - not EVER. Drinking KEEPS him from time traveling. It keeps him in the present. That is such bullshit. Who was this written by; a recovering alcoholic or the American Politically Correct Committee? I mean, seriously, saying Henry doesn’t drink is like saying Superman can’t fly.

Watching him drink water for 2 hours is painful it’s such a departure from the novel.

Okay, wait, what? She tells him way too much stuff first meeting and jumps him way too fast. Didn’t he say go easy on me?

You can’t change some things, I’m sorry.

1. Gomez is supposed to be bigger. Not that big a deal, whatever.
2. Henry drinks. Period. It’s a huge part of the book. Making him drink water at social gatherings is idiotic.
3. Henry needs to run. All the time. This is important to the end of the book
4. He eats voraciously.
5. The first time he meets Gomez and his girlfriend, he saves dinner, not a tough scene to pull off.

They show Henry running a couple times. He eats a couple times and not much when he does.

He cooks. Claire doesn’t. These are actually important things to know.

See, all these little touches bring LIFE to the characters. Personality. Henry HAS to run, it’s a major theme in the book and never taking even 30 seconds to explain that is an insult and lessens the impact of him losing his feet. His metabolism is on overload. He needs to eat a lot, drink a lot, run a lot, have sex a lot, sleep a lot. NONE of that is explored or explained in any way in the movie.

Back to the notes-

He meets his mom on the subway? You didn’t choose to show one of the many poignant scenes described in the book of him being friends with his mom and dad and going to the beach or having dinner with them? The subway? Really?

Claire’s hair isn’t the right color and it’s not supposed to be up so often. Henry loves her hair. Henry may love her hair more than he loves Claire herself.

He disappears more times every half an hour than he did in the whole book and they never link anxiety to it.

Half way done – already married, pregnant, vision of Henry dying on floor. Already? Seriously?

They are focusing on the wrong parts of the book. This book was so rich with brilliant imagery, funny lines - personalities so deep that you felt like you knew them. Instead they have chosen to focus on Claire’s constant miscarriages, she and Henry fighting, Henry being depressed. It’s like they took this brilliant love story and thought “How many times can we make the audience feel sad? How many times can we make them cry? How can we take these fully realized characters and make them two dimensional?”

They took some beautifully crafted scenes in the book and changed them for no reason. In the book, when Henry goes to see Doctor Kendricks, multiple times, he finally convinces him eventually by handing him a note.

“Read this when your son is born.”
“I’m having a little girl.”
Henry nods.

The lab results have gotten mixed up and The Kendricks have a son with Down’s syndrome. He open’s Henry’s note and reads this information after being informed this.

In the movie, he sees Kendricks twice and tells him “The Bhurger grant? You’re going to win it.” This convinces him. Are you kidding me? That doesn’t even make sense!

Why take a beautifully crafted scene like the one I described and reduce it to this drivel?

They never explain he can’t watch TV, then taking a great scene like winning the lottery and turning it stupid by going into a TV store. Buying the house was also great in the book and they turned that stupid too. Seriously, horribly crafted and wouldn’t have taken any more time.

You know, there’s a bunch of changes that didn’t bother me, so I’m not just being negative. I don’t care that we never got to see Kimee, or know that Gomez is in love with Claire, or that Henry’s father was a great musician, or ignoring the fact Henry has a psycho ex-girlfriend, or he teaches his younger self to pick locks and steal wallets. Or the fact he’s in danger of losing his job because he’s found naked so often and disappears for hours at a time. FINE! None of that is important.

Skipping the fact that many in Claire’s family say to Claire “I could swear I’ve seen him before…” is just dumb. Changing the way he presents the lottery ticket to Claire is stupid. Changing the house buying scene is idiotic. Changing the first dinner with Gomez and Henry saves the day was unnecessary and stupid all at the same time. Not showing that Henry is a great cook and has to teach Claire how to before he dies is stupid. Claire’s hair not being red and long is stupid. Skipping the scene where he disappears in church, shows up at his apartment and his future self tells him “Relax, you’ll be back in two minutes.” Is again, stupid.

It’s like the screenwriter read the Cliff notes on the book.

If they read it, they didn’t get it at all.

I did like many of the scenes and they were just as I imagined them. I liked the first time he meets Claire in the field and again, the first time he meets her in the library. I love Eric Bana’s look and performance. I loved how dragged down he looked the first time Claire meets him and his and her reaction. I loved him beating the crap out of the homophobe and then explaining to Gomez what’s going on. Scenes right out of the book, done right, or close enough. There were some parts that were beautiful and a lot that just sucked and could have been fixed easily. They just didn’t get it. And skipping scenes or changing scenes so that you can show more of Henry and Claire fighting or having a miscarriage…. Where is the sense in that?

Sadly, I will probably watch it again and just FF past the parts I don't like, which would be about 60% of the movie.


  1. Only read the book, have not yet seen the movie although we will eventually. I am curious how they deal with 23 year old Henry vs. 43 year old Henry. Different actors? There is no way they are going to make Eric Bana look 23.

  2. They give him more grey hair when he is older and that's about it.