Sunday, March 27, 2011

Makin' Time With The Ladies...


Sam, when can i jump? Is it time to leap yet?

I liked the tv show Quantum Leap. Can you think of someone who doesn't like Quantum Leap? It looks like someone liked it a lot because they made a movie out of it called The Time Traveller's Wife. It stars that guy Eric Bana who was the Hulk in that first Hulk movie, not The Incredible Hulk but the one just called Hulk. He is a guy who is born with a genetic condition that is like epilepsy except his seizures involve travelling through time (I'm not being insensitive, it's kind of explained like this). So from an early age starting shortly before the death of his opera singing mother, Henry starts leaping around his lifetime.

Despite these leaps, Henry manages to grow up and hold down a job as a research librarian (of course!). Until one day a woman comes in, clearly recognizes him though he has no clue who this girl is, and goes out on a date with her. She jumps his bones and reveals she's known the future Henry since her childhood in the past and has loved him ever since. They get married and win the lottery (because Henry picked up the Lotto numbers from the future and brought it back to the past to become wealthy in the present) and melodrama escalates from there.

OK, got it? That's the set up. You see Henry from different ages of his life (though mostly as an adult between his 20s and 40s) disappear and reappear in different parts of his own life. So you'll suddenly see like 40 year old Henry living 20 year old Henry's life and vice versa. Now, on to the criticism.

The Time Traveller's Wife is based on a book, from what the movie ads tell me a great book, that I've never read. So there is probably a whole lot of extra story and exposition to say how this story line and rules of time travel is supposed to work. But I know none of that because I didn't read the book. So I can only judge this flick based on the movie in front of me.

Let's start with the good points, Eric Bana gives an affecting performance as time trippin Henry. He's kinda a loner at the start and then you see him grow through his relationship with Rachel McAdams. McAdams does the lady in waiting thing well. And the movie is beautifully shot, there are contrasts between cold dirty city alleyways and lush grassland yet it all ties together because the story is so exaggerated to start with you figure "Why not go from one landscape to another in an instant?"

So the good stuff is out of the way. On to the bad stuff. First up: The Romance. This movie is sold as an unconventional romance, but really very little in the romance department shows up. Bana and McAdams make a pleasant couple yet don't inspire the amount of chemistry needed to make Time Traveller fly. The whole freakin movie hinges on our believing in their incredible romance! We have to want to see these two people together and happy. Try as they might, they don't inspire that level of romantic fire. And without that, the rest of the story falls like a house of cards.

Like when we first meet the wife, Claire, she's already in love with Henry based on a handful of meetings while she was growing up. Then he I guess falls in love with her in reverse since it was the future him meeting her in the past. And everything then flows from this sort of it-is-meant-to-be-so-it-is-even-if-it-hasn't-happened-yet reasoning. He says early on he can't change the significant events in time otherwise he would keep his Mom from dying in that exploding car wreck. And because the movie established his time travel is only along his life and not say world events. Henry's not Forrest Gumping his way through the time/space thing witnessing moonlandings on the moon, he just sees stuff that advances his own personal story. Oh yeah, another stipulation is that he can only time travel his body not other things like clothes so he arrives everywhere butt naked Terminator style. And after he arrives Henry must run and steal clothes. But it never really answers why he must run, some of his jumps only last a few minutes so wouldn't it make sense just to wait some time before moving in case you jump out quickly thereby lowering the risk to you of being discovered? And why is it people are automatically after him when he jumps somewhere? Why can't he ever appear on a European nudist beach?

Ultimately it's the "things are meant to be" logic of the script that kills the romance. The only reason the two people get together is because time or a God or destiny says so. The show dips its toe into the philosophical pondering of free will versus predestiny but then laughs it off. Or maybe 'ol Hank is a metaphor for an unreliable man since he disappears a lot. It's like he can literally use the excuse that he lost track of time! Or time lost track of him. Whatever, you get my point. Henry is meant to be kinda put upon and tragic but really he's living the single guy's dream: Rachel McAdams wants to make it with him all the time in the now and he doesn't even have to get to know her to do it, because that's future Henry's problem. What's her favorite color? Why does she cry at picnics? Should I ask for a second date? Who cares, that's future Henry's problem not his.

The Time Traveller's Wife is OK if you have nothing better on to watch because it looks pretty and has actors you might recognize from somewhere else. If you take away the time travel angle it's a fairly boring love story. You know what's a better time travel story? Star Trek IV. Or the last episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Picard keeps saying "It happened in the past!!!" Or Terminators 1 and 2. That first Back To The Future, look out Marty! And like I said at the start, Quantum Leap. So watch The Time Traveller's Wife cheaply if you must just remember unlike Henry you can never get those 2 hours back.

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