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The Time Traveller's Wife

I had popcorn and two pints of beer for dinner last night, because lidocafe and I went to see a movie, and then debriefed it (and of course discussed many other things) at a quite nice pub afterwards.

Those of you who have read and loved the book of The Time Traveller's Wife, as both lidocafe and I had, can be reassured that it's not a travesty. It is a respectful adaptation, trimming the book to its main storyline. The two leads are lovely, and we were also both particularly impressed with the children who played Claire as a child and Alba, Henry and Claire's daughter.

Although it captures the romantic core story of the book, it misses the novel's complexity. We lose the sense of how devastating Henry's condition is to him - in some ways it is treated almost like a joke or a novelty, not the real curse that it is. Some of the time paradoxes seemed more blatant - I don't remember if this was something that I just didn't notice in the book or if some of the changes made things worse. Obviously, the movie also loses the rich layers of intertextuality: art, poetry and music are both essential elements in the novel that are mentioned but not developed in the movie. On the other hand, the faithfulness of the adaptation makes the movie lose some identity or even coherence of its own as a movie; lidocafe makes the point in her own comment on it that those who had not read the book, as we had, might have found it confusing.

I am not sorry I saw it - it was a pleasant way to spend an evening. I did not feel that it was in any way a violation of the book; if anything, it reminded me what a lovely experience reading it had been and made me want to read it again. I'm not sure whether to recommend it to anyone who has NOT read the original, however - you might find the movie confusing and silly, and I would hate it to put you off reading the novel.


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 18th, 2009 07:03 pm (UTC)
. . . though it captures the romantic core story of the book, it misses the novel's complexity.

That's exactly right. I remember Henry's experiences and pysche steadily darkening through his life, not being, as you put it a joke or a novelty. The further I get from viewing it, the more I see how pale the imitation actually is. So maybe I'm wrong--maybe someone who hasn't read the book would like the movie more?

As to paradoxes, did you ever wonder about clothing? Claire's style doesn't change through the years. Where on earth is the terrible hairstyle we're all glad we left behind? Why doesn't she age? Why doesn't anyone but Henry age?
Aug. 18th, 2009 08:39 pm (UTC)
So maybe I'm wrong--maybe someone who hasn't read the book would like the movie more? ?

It's hard to say. I think my own response to the movie - even the tears at the end - comes from the overlay of memory from the book. We can fill in any blanks of detail or complexity that the movie leaves. I think someone who hadn't read it might just find it an okay love-story, a bit off-beat, but nothing earth-shattering.

Claire did cut her hair at some point, I noticed. And it went from red to brown for some reason. The most unconvincing was Claire at 18.

I agree with you, though, that it's rapidly fading in my mind. I want to read the book again. It makes you realize how much better an adaptation Atonement was. Also nowhere near as good as the book, of course, but managed to have a much more lasting impact.

Edited at 2009-08-18 08:41 pm (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


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