My eyes are still puffy from all the crying I did during today’s first showing of The Time Traveler’s Wife. Miracle of miracles, it was showing while the boys were both still in school, so I knocked out all of my work and high-tailed it to the theater in time to squeeze in a respectable amount of nachos and tears.
Pregnant women are entitled.
Pregnant women who call The Time Traveler's Wife their favorite book are doubly entitled. Just ask the people that sat next to me on the plane as I recently re-read it. I’m fairly certain they’d let me get away with eating a Krispy Kreme franchise with Slim Jim chasers, so long as I’d stop freaking their geeks with my silent sobbing.
Ahem. I love that book.
As such, I went into the film version of The Time Traveler’s Wife with low expectations. It could never hold up to the emotion-fest that is the book. Rather, I looked at is as a treat for lovers of the book. Had someone asked me, after finishing the book the first time, “Would you like to see a handful of your favorite scenes recreated with gorgeous actors and pretty cinematography but not much else?”… I would have said yes. A thousand times “yes.”
Because it’s better than nothing. Particularly if you aren’t a details-obsessed X-Men fanatic that throws a fit because the director changed the color of Mr Snazzy Hands’ hair.
Or, say, changed the ending of your favorite epic.
As a stand-alone movie, I’m not sure how well The Time Traveler’s Wife holds up. Although I started crying within the first 3o seconds, I also began to doubt the translation from approximately second number 72. I spent the next half hour feeling like I was watching a train wreck of editing fiascos (and I knew what was going on) and felt sure that anyone that hadn’t read the book must be close to walking out.
“Heavy handed” is an understatement.
But let’s look at the underlying problem: The Time Traveler’s Wife is a delicate and glorious love story built around a hefty sci fi framework. The beauty of the story is the relationship between Henry and Clare, but the plot is classic science fiction. You can’t get around that. Nor should you want to, as my favorite scenes from the book are those closely interlaced with the details of time travel.
I had a sneaking suspicion that the film makers were going to see the sci fi factors as an obstacle, though, and I’m not sure that I was wrong to suspect that. What I felt we ended up with was a combination of a rushed love story (because it’s all about the love! the love! bring your date, it’s love!) and a half-mumbled, forced suspension-of-disbelief science fiction plot.
Some of the most cringe-worthy bits of the book for me were when Henry had to tell people outright that he was a time traveler. In the book, it leaned just this side of subtle and necessary, but in the movie it landed like a thud for me. I felt like they were saying, “Crap, let’s just get this over with already.”
Henry’s time traveling was beautiful in the book. It felt clunky in the movie.
But what did I expect? Going in prepared, I didn’t expect anything short of clunky. I just had my fingers crossed that 80% of my favorite scenes were left intact. And they were. Out of order? Yes. Seemingly not making sense had you not read the book? Sure. But if you look at it as a gift for your imagination, then you are set.
If you haven’t read the book, but plan to, should you see the movie first? I would carefully say no.
The book is so emotional, so gut wrenchingly moving, it would be a shame to miss some of the moments of surprise that the movie does give away. I can’t stress enough what an endearing book The Time Traveler's Wife is. I once said that I felt as though the book smashed my heart into pieces and then put it back together stronger than before.
Upon rereading it, I would say this is even truer than I first guessed. It’s that kind of book. The kind you might want to just keep in your bag for when you unexpectedly get caught in a long line somewhere… full of strangers, because wow, your friends will think you are insane for bursting into tears mere moments after opening its pages. Who cares what strangers think, right?
If you can wait, read the book first. If you think you’d like to experience the movie first, I’d love to know if it made sense to you. Actually, I think many of the important points are delivered as delicately as a hammer cracking eggs, so “made sense” might not be the right question. Was it enjoyable for you? Did you ever feel swept away?
That said, would I go see it again? If you have a ticket and a babysitter to share, I’ll be there tonight. I daresay I’ll enjoy it more the second time around because my butt cheeks won’t be slightly clenched as I anticipate mild slaughtering of key scenes.
I want to believe that the endlessness of Henry and Clare’s love translates in the movie for audiences that have not read the book.
I would have looked around to see for myself, but it appeared that a leak had opened up in the ceiling directly above my head during the show and I didn’t want to cause a scene. Because each scene, in and of itself, was my book. I cried during the movie for the moments that each scene represented, but did not necessarily deliver as they glittered alone on the screen. I cried for my love of what I know it is. For me.
Amazing how a good book can move you.
Buy the book at Amazon and tell me what you think:
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger