(New Line) Eric Bana, Rachel MacAdams, Arliss Howard, Ron Livingston, Stephen Tobolowski, Jane McLean, Phillip Craig, Brooklynn Proulx, Fiona Reid, Hailey McCann, Michelle Nolden, Alison MacLeod. Directed by Robert Schwentke
They say that love conquers all, and sometimes it does. However, it can put a strain on a marriage when your husband frequently disappears. I can only imagine it would be far worse if he were to disappear in front of your very eyes.
Henry deTamble (Bana) has an odd genetic quirk. He is able to travel through time. Unfortunately, he has no control over his traveling; it occurs frequently and without warning. Also, only his body travels; his clothes do not so he arrives wherever he does buck naked, forcing him to find clothes any way he can, often pissing off those he steals the garments from. He generally doesn’t have them long, sometimes only minutes before he is pulled back to his own time. Also, he tends to go to the same events over and over again, pulled to them like a moth to a flame. One of those events is the death of his mother in a car crash. His first traveling episode occurs at that moment, saving him from being in the same car with her at the moment the gas tank explodes and saving his life.
He is drawn also to events in the life of Clare Abshire (MacAdams), a free-spirited artist whose father Philip (Craig) is a wealthy conservative who loves to hunt. He visits her often in childhood, and then they run into each other as adults. It isn’t long before a very passionate affair begins, and before long he realizes his loneliness is over. He proposes, she accepts and they get married. Unfortunately, he has one of his more inopportune traveling episodes, so an older version of himself stands in for him, leaving his new father-in-law to wonder why his new young son-in-law has a touch of grey in his hair.
They win a lottery (time travel has its upside too) and buy a nice house in the suburbs of Chicago where Clare has a studio she can work in. Her former roommates and close friends Gomez (Livingston) and Charisse (McLean) – who have also become a couple – visit regularly. Clare wants to have a baby, but every attempt ends up in miscarriage. It seems that his progeny has inherited Henry’s time traveling gene and travels out of the womb before becoming viable. This causes considerable friction, and in desperation Henry turns to a scientist (Tobolowski) whom an older self had mentioned to Clare would be of use. There is also a nagging question; why is it that Clare has never encountered a version of Henry that is older than he is now? Could it be that a cure is found for his condition? Or is there a more tragic fate in store for the time traveler?
Based on the runaway bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger, German director Schwentke has crafted the kind of film that pre-teen girls obsessing on the Twilight films and novels can graduate to. He and screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin (who wrote Ghost) have to deal with the novel’s inherent nonsensical premise and they choose not to deal with it, a wise decision. They (and the audience) just accept that the time travel is a fact of this universe and move on, as you should. If you try to apply logic to any of it, have a goodly supply of Excedrin close at hand.
The secret to having this movie work is in the chemistry between Henry and Clare, and Bana and MacAdams do have enough of it to make the movie’s romantic element shine. Bana, in particular, makes a terrific romantic lead – he has shown glimpses of it in movies like The Incredible Hulk and Munich but this is the first time I’ve seen him in a romantic role and he carries it off nicely. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that the ladies get several views of him in the altogether, although whether you find his behind attractive is quite up to you.
The movie is flawed – unfortunately, the source material violates its own internal logic freely – but that isn’t because of the leads. They are in nearly every scene, together or separately and it is their movie to carry and they give it a good showing. There are times that Clare whines about her lot in life, but I think there are quite a few wives whose husbands are in harm’s way in the Middle East who would like to have her situation over theirs. I suppose its all a matter of perspective.
There is certainly a bittersweet element to the movie, and there are some moments that are genuinely difficult to watch. Still, Clare and Henry are basically nice people, so you root for things to go well for them which is a shame because they have a lot of burdens to bear. When I think of great romance movies with elements of fantasy in them, I generally think of Ladyhawke and The Princess Bride. This isn’t as good as either of those movies – more like a Harlequin romance with elements of fantasy than a romantic fantasy as such. However, on its own merits it holds up pretty well, so if you like to see a good romance, I suppose Clare and Henry provide a good one, especially for those caught up in the romance between Bella and Edward.
REASONS TO GO: The chemistry between the leads is solid and believable. Bana in particular makes a great romantic lead. The romantic element is at the forefront, so those who like Harlequin romances and the Twilight series will enjoy this.
REASONS TO STAY: The premise is not the most logical to ever come down the road, and the movie – as the book did – violates its own internal logic from time to time.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some male nudity (mostly shots of the bare behind variety) and a few disturbing images, as well as some brief sexuality. Okay for most teens.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Eric Bana filmed Star Trek immediately after production wrapped on this film, a role that required him to shave his head. When re-shoots were required for The Time Traveler’s Wife, they had to be delayed while Bana’s hair regrew, which wound up delaying the release of this film for over a year.
HOME OR THEATER: This is a rare toss-up for me. I think it works equally as well in a darkened movie theater, or in the comfort of your own home. Bring plenty of tissue.
FINAL RATING: 6/10