Even though I haven’t actually read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I can definitively say this: The book is better than the movie.
How do I know this? Because Audrey Niffenegger’s novel inspired a devoted following. The film is about as inspiring as an AT&T commercial.
Clearly, in telling this story of a little girl named Clare (played as an adult by Rachel McAdams) who meets a time-traveling man named Henry (Eric Bana) and loves him from then on, the filmmakers were going for gushy, swoonyGhost-style romance. But something is missing. There’s the inherent flaw in the film’s structure: Henry’s disappearing act (his time traveling stints come on like seizures; he can’t control them) is more frustrating than tragic; and his romance with Clare is never allowed to blossom on screen—the moment we begin to see some chemistry or connection between them—poof!—he’s gone.
Some blame has to lie in the performances. Both Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams are fine actors, and easy on the eyes, but they share a similar limitation: They need to work with other, more electric actors in order to thrive. (McAdams worked so well with Ryan Gosling in The Notebook; Bana was at his best alongside the great character actors of Munich.) Together, they’re like two scoops of vanilla ice cream.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is certainly a slick and well-mounted production. And it has a few moments that display the tingly possibilities of its premise—in one, an older Henry time travels from the future to stand in at his own wedding; in another, Henry meets his yet-to-be-born daughter. But it’s mostly a turgid affair. I wanted to succumb to Clare and Henry’s star-crossed love, but I just couldn’t bring myself to bother.