Book vs Movie: THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE

Tttw Last night, I saw the movie version of The Time Traveler’s Wife (reviewed on this blog here). I was a bit apprehensive about the movie, both because I feared that the movie wouldn’t do the book justice, and because I was dreading watching some of the more difficult scenes from the book. But I knew I had to steel myself and see it. Here is my take on book vs. movie, Time Traveler-style.

Warning: there are spoilers ahead, both of the book and the movie. If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie yet, proceed with caution!

The movie The Time Traveler’s Wife has gotten mixed to negative reviews, but I have to say that I enjoyed it. I wonder what I would have thought had I not read the book (and would love to hear from anyone who has seen it but not read it), but I thought the movie was as faithful to the book as it could have been in two hours. There is a lot that the movie left out, but it covered the main plot points of the book – Henry’s mother’s death, his relationship with Clare, their friendship with Gomez, and the birth of their daughter.

The first part of the movie felt a little rushed – the early days when Clare is young and Henry is older, and their “courtship” during her teen years, are treated very quickly – and I felt that it left out some of the interesting elements of their early relationship, such as when they sleep together for the first time when she’s 18, and some of the getting-to-know-each-other scenes in Clare’s early 20s.

But the movie does a nice job of demonstrating the inevitability of their relationship, Clare’s frustration about not having been able to choose the direction of her life, and the depth of their love. I also liked that the movie was sort of dark and shadow-y in the way that the book was. Clare and Henry don’t live in bright, whitewashed settings in a sun-kissed golden Hollywood world – their lives were at times gritty and cold and sad and sort of messy. And the movie captured that well.

Casting-wise, Rachel McAdams was perfect. Just perfect. (How can she look so beautiful no matter what she is doing or wearing?). I didn’t love Eric Bana. I imagined Henry as a little more slight – Bana is tall and toned. He also seemed kind of mechanical. I know that Henry was a closed-off, walled person when Clare met him, but Bana’s portrayal of him never really let those walls come down (except when Alba was around, when he adopted that classic beatific parental gaze that Hollywood likes to use to convey that a character really, really loves his or her child).

Some things that the movie left out: Henry’s troubles at work due to his disappearing, the Ingrid storyline, the sexual episodes with Gomez and Clare, most of Clare’s relationship with her family, and Henry’s losing his feet (he does end up in a wheelchair but it’s not as bad as in the book). Henry’s impregnating Clare takes place in a car, instead of in bed with an older Henry sleeping next to them (which I found disappointing, because that was a memorable part of the book), and the final scene, when Clare is 80. My friend with whom I saw the movie thought that the movie ended on a more ambiguous, hopeful note, perhaps to satisfy a mass audience.

A few other quibbles… Bana doesn’t look different enough from scene to scene to cue the viewer about how old he is. Other than some grey hair at his wedding, he doesn’t really look that much older as the ceremony groom than he does as the first dance groom. And at the end of the movie, we’re supposed to think that he is wasting away, getting sicker and thinner, but he really doesn’t. The movie doesn’t convey the inevitability of Henry’s decline the way the book did.

Ok, so what did I like? For me, I just loved seeing this book play out on screen. Going through the same calculations and mystery-solving in the theater as I did while reading the book. And most of all, just giving in to the (admittedly sappy at times) love story between these two people who were bound to each other at the most basic and fundamental level.

I recommend seeing the movie, especially if you have read the book. I view it as sort of a companion piece for the book – it certainly doesn’t come close to replicating the experience of reading it, and the alternating first person narration, which was so effective in the book, is lost on the screen. But the movie doesn’t offend the book in any way, and I am very glad that I saw it.

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14 Comments

  • August 16, 2009 - 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book, but will probably see the movie. At this point, I’ll wait until I’ve seen the movie to read the book – if I read the book right before seeing the movie I know I’d be disappointed.

  • Lisa
    August 16, 2009 - 4:48 pm | Permalink

    The more I reflect on the movie, the more I think that I could have overlooked a lot of the changes if I had liked Eric Bana more as Henry. Rachel McAdmas was such a perfect fit – I was disappointed that I didn’t feel attached to Henry until the final third of the movie. A friend told me that the rights to the book were originally purchased by then-married Brad Pitt & Jennifer Aniston’s production company and that they had intended to star in it together. Interesting to think of how that might have changed our views…
    That said, I’m glad I saw the movie – although I’m far more happy to have read the book. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • Stephanie C.
    August 16, 2009 - 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I’ve only read reviews by people who haven’t read the book and it seems they can’t appreciate the movie as much, so I’m glad to hear from someone who has read the book.
    This is probably my most favorite book of all time so I really can’t wait to see the movie!
    And of course, all these trailers are making me want to read the book again!

  • Kiki
    August 16, 2009 - 10:40 pm | Permalink

    First off, I love this book. I’ve been sick so I didn’t get to the movie like I thought I would this weekend. I have been concerned about the casting of both Clare and Henry, and from what I’ve read here, that is still my biggest concern. Well, that and the obvious difficulties with translating this incredible book into a movie! But I am going to go, and am heartened to hear McAdams was so good. But Henry is one of my most favorite literary characters, so I hope he doesn’t get ruined.

  • August 17, 2009 - 4:17 am | Permalink

    I’m still trying to convince my husband to see this film with me. I read the book a few years ago and it’s one of my favourites. One of those books where I’d love to read it for the first time again. Hoping to re-read it before I see the film, but also hoping N changes his mind and we see the film pretty quickly!

  • August 17, 2009 - 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read the book yet and plan to see the movie before I do so. I hoping the movie wouldn’t be as disappointing if I’m not comparing the book and movie throughout.

  • August 17, 2009 - 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Good review. I liked the movie and agree that it’s a great companion. It didn’t really add anything (sans the last part) and kept to the story nicely. It’s not the book, of course, but it’s enjoyable enough.

  • August 18, 2009 - 9:33 am | Permalink

    I loved the movie! I absolutely love Rachel McAdams and she can do no wrong, I swear! She is gorgeous too, even when she’s not supposed to be.
    I agree about Eric Bana – during the wedding scene, I didn’t realize he was from the future because he looked the same to me! The gray hair wasn’t too noticeable.

  • August 18, 2009 - 11:03 am | Permalink

    I saw the movie opening night and I did enjoy it as well (as much as I could). The only part that I was really, really disappointed in is the ending. I love the ending of the book and think it would have been a beautiful scene to play out in the movie. Though the ending in the movie was fine.

  • August 18, 2009 - 4:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s been too long since I read this so I’m glad for this post. I hope to see the movie soon.

  • August 18, 2009 - 8:11 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed this movie too, though it didn’t come close to the book, in my opinion.

  • August 18, 2009 - 9:32 pm | Permalink

    I did not read the book. Saw the movie. Once I see a movie I don’t read the book. Why read a book that you already saw the movie. I liked the movie, was not crazy about it. There were parts of the movie that I felt dragged. Some of the parts were predictable. It was too weird for me. My friend told me she loved the book.

  • August 19, 2009 - 9:22 am | Permalink

    Awesome review!! I agree with pretty much everything you said – the beginning felt rushed and Eric Bana was a poor casting choice for Henry. All in all I felt the movie was pretty good, but not nearly as good as the book. It’s been a long while since reading the book, which I loved, and now think it might be a good time to re-read!

  • August 20, 2009 - 3:14 am | Permalink

    I skimmed your post because I’m seeing the movie Sunday with some women from my book club. We read the book together a couple years ago. Excited!!

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