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Movie review: The Time Traveler's Wife -- 4 out of 5 stars
Clare's jaw drops the moment she spies Henry, and it's not just love at first sight. Clare knows Henry, even if he doesn't recognize her. She's met him many times over the years. And his visits to the meadow on her family's estate turned him into her ideal man -- tall, dark and handsome.
It doesn't matter that she was 6 and he was 40ish. His nudity on their first meeting (she lends him a blanket) didn't scare her off, nor did his presumptuous kiss when she was 18.
She presses for a date, and since she's played by the gorgeous, misty-eyed Rachel McAdams, that's not an issue. He'll meet her at the restaurant she assures him ( Eric Bana) is his "favorite."
"We've been planning this dinner a long time."
An elegy to love, fate, loss and free will, The Time Traveler's Wife is to science fiction what Twilight is to vampire tales -- a femme-centric exploration of relationships wrapped in genre fiction. We follow the decades of connection between this open-minded woman and a man who has had "fits" since childhood, each one followed by his fading away only to reappear at some other place, at some other point in time, naked. He "travels" like The Terminator.
Her "ideal" keeps showing up and courting her, luring her into a relationship that to her seems pre-ordained. "I've been in love with you all my life," she confesses.
But who would want to be a time-traveler's wife? His absences are long and unexpected, the very definition of the guy "afraid to commit." He might wink out on her wedding day. Even if he takes great pains to show up as his older self and make good that big day, there's all that explaining to do to the relatives.
Robert Schwentke ( Jodie Foster's Flightplan) doesn't quite have what it takes to make this a first-class weeper. But if you're making a romance with a touch of the supernatural, you can't do better than hiring the screenwriter for Ghost. Bruce Joel Rubin finds scenes of irony and pathos in Audrey Niffenegger's novel and makes them work, even if his director isn't a romantic.
Schwentke fixates on the logistics of time travel -- Henry's need to steal clothes with every fade out, how a time traveler might get rich (think Back to the Future). He's caught up in the sci-fi, just like a guy.
But the movie invites questions about entering into a love affair when you know the ending and accepting the consequences, about how you treat the knowledge of someone's impending death.
McAdams is cast to great effect, and she's nicely matched with Bana, who finally plays a lead that feels conflicted, earnest and romantic. Time traveling aside, they make the relationship that is the heart of this work, especially in those scenes where, as in real life, you realize that love may not, as the cliche goes, "conquer all."
The Time Traveler's Wife Four of five stars Cast: Rachel McAdams, Eric Bana Director: Robert Schwentke Running time: 1 hour 45 minutes. Industry rating: PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality