A dapper (mostly) contemporary costume drama, The Time Traveler’s Wife is abundantly interior-decorated in vintage rococo. Eric Bana, to his credit, continues to wear the outfits picked out for him remarkably well. The hip-bougie upholstery even covers the band at the fairy-tale wedding, playing “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” It’s not really love, though, that complicates things between Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Bana), but, instead, Henry’s tendency to inconveniently melt in and out of the present, finding himself unceremoniously stranded somewhere in time, naked. The “absentee time-traveling partner” is an open invitation to apply your own metaphor—I favor a time-travel-equals-chronic-blackout-drinking reading, but it’s elastic enough for whatever. Wife recalls a few other timeline-tangled romances, not least the telescoped lifelong love of 1948’s Portrait of Jennie—but where Jennie favored a “poetic” logic (and no-strings-attached romance), Wife forgoes any sense of mystery, dealing in the daily difficulties of synchronizing schedules, doctors’ appointments, vasectomies, pregnancies, and meeting friends and parents (all crowding the movie and further diluting the already-limited rapport of the central lovers). This thoroughness may impress fans of the bestseller source novel, but will disappoint anyone looking for transport from a movie—being a time traveler’s wife, it turns out, is mostly a drag.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 11, 2009