WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Henry can time travel — it’s in his genes. His favorite time-traveling destination is wherever Clare — his future doting wife who’s known her entire life that Henry is The One — is. It’s true that some women “just know ” but Clare really knows she’s destined to become “The Time Traveler’s Wife” because Henry the Time Traveler once told her so. And for whatever reason little-girl Clare actually believed this strange older man who lurked in the trees of her backyard meadow … naked. (Time travelers you see lose their clothes and wind up nude at no moment’s notice.) She’d set aside one of Daddy’s old outfits for him and on their dates (or perhaps tea parties is more accurate) he’d tell her intimate stories of their future together. A little creepy right?
It gets romantic — but not until she’s of age ahem. Eventually Clare and Henry meet in real time (and Henry hasn’t a clue who she is) and the two embark on a sweeping take-your-breath-away affair. Of course they marry and you’re convinced that Clare is the prettiest most patient most perfect woman in the world. After all her husband while dreamy often leaves her in the lurch — opening presents on Christmas Day … alone; picking up a broken plate a discarded outfit and eating dinner … alone. It sucks but — especially in Clare’s case — you can’t choose who you love.
WHO’S IN IT?
At times Eric Bana looks a little aged but time-traveling must be awfully taxing. He’s a fine Henry (his naked ass is a supporting character essentially) but he’s sort of stuck playing catch-up next to Rachel McAdams' Clare. McAdams is perfect. Her voice alone exudes soft tender love with every delivery of a line and the deep twinkle in her eyes so simply reads: “I deserve to be loved and to be taken care of … because I’m perfect.” You just want Bana to do her right and stop being a doofus or a creep (stop visiting six-year-old Clare!) and stop time-traveling. Because that’s what McAdams deserves.
Obviously McAdams. But to be fair it’s a good romance. It’s about really really really loving your lover through every disagreement disappointment ailment miscarriage tough decision bad-sweater gifting your-dad-is-a-Republican revelation and “I’m sorry my hair turned gray during our wedding … I time-traveled” apology. Oftentimes movies aren’t all that realistic when it comes to an entire-life telling of love. The Time Traveler's Wife is — except for the time-traveling part.
Well it’s no Notebook. Their love while lovely gets bogged down a lot by the peculiarity of Henry’s genetic condition. It could be a captivating romance from beginning to end but instead you’re left fact-checking the movie (Wait didn’t Henry say he couldn’t control his time-traveling? But wait he just now knew that he would disappear! WTF?!). And lovers of the best-selling book may leave feeling dissatisfied just FYI.
I cannot help but admit … I love the wedding. It’s outdoors with hundreds of lanterns hanging everywhere and Eric Bana’s salt ‘n’ pepper ‘do midway through the ceremony reminded me why I love him more than Brad Pitt in Troy. And time-traveling is way cooler than aging backwards so take that Benjamin Button.
Near the end the movie offers one fantastical “bright side” to having a time traveler for a husband. To get there McAdams does her infamous — and adorable — Notebook sprint (remember how she was always running after something in that movie? Usually Ryan Gosling …).
Bill (Aaron Eckhart) is one of those guys who may have had potential at one point in his life but somewhere along the way decided it just wasn’t worth it. His marriage is a bit of a sham and he recently videotaped his wife (Elizabeth Banks) having sex with a local news anchor (Timothy Olyphant). He’s got a true addiction to anything sweet and chocolate causing his stomach to lead whenever he walks. AND he’s stuck in a dead-end bank job working for his father-in-law. Suddenly his life takes a turn for the better when he decides to get a Donut store franchise and starts mentoring a quirkily confident young student he calls The Kid (Logan Lerman) who turns the tables on Bill and mentors him instead in the fine art of learning how to live again. The Kid's efforts lead to a lingerie sales girl (Jessica Alba) who he engages in a plan to reawaken Bill’s zest for fun sex and renewed self-confidence. In Thank You For Smoking and No Reservations Aaron Eckhart proved he had undiscovered potential for comedy which is reinforced by his charmingly self-deprecating performance here as a man who just let it all go and is trying to reel himself back in. Even though the script lets him down often Eckhart effortlessly rises above some mediocre material to create a three dimensional portrait of a man drowning in his own frustration. The fact that he allows the camera to photograph his body in such an unflattering light shows he’s a star who doesn’t let ego get in the way of some good laughs. Sixteen-year-old Logan Lerman --so good as Christian Bale’s son in 3:10 To Yuma--also displays a supreme confidence which he NEEDS since he’s asked to play a dude who enjoys wearing ladies underwear and lingeree AND has to model them in front of Jessica Alba(!) Yikes. His scenes with Eckhart are terrific though. Alba and Banks don’t make much of an impression ironic since the film was written and co-directed by a woman. Perhaps screenwriter Melisa Wallack’s script was much better on the page than the screen but if so she has only herself (and co-director Bernie Goldman) to blame as she is also the one behind the camera making her writing and directing debut with this unfortunate comic misfire. Unfortunate because it had true potential to be an intriguing light-hearted character study of a guy searching for his soul and in Eckhart definitely had the right actor to play him. Sadly for every good scene (and there are a few) the movie falls right back on obvious jokes and way too broad and unbelievable sitcom level shenanigans. Also its hard to understand how Bill would even care to get back with his wife after all the humiliating things she says and does to him. Their relationship is never established in any credible way so the thrust of the story never takes off. It’s understandable then why despite a cast with marquee names distributor First Look is dumping this into a few theatres on its way straight to DVD in July.
Love means never having to say you're sorry; it's a many splendored thing; it's all you need. But in tennis love means zero; it means you lose. Or does it? For Peter Colt (Paul Bettany) a British pro tennis player seeded near the bottom of the world tennis ranks love actually inspires him. After scoring a wild card to play in the prestigious Wimbledon tournament he meets and falls for the rising and highly competitive American tennis star Lizzie Bradbury (Kirsten Dunst) fueling a winning streak he hasn't had since he began his career. For Lizzie however the love thing doesn't necessarily work out as well. Her feelings for Peter become a distraction throwing her off her game. Hmmm. Can these two crazy kids keep it together long enough so Peter can fulfill his lifelong dream of winning the men's singles title even if it means his muse might have to sacrifice her first Wimbledon title?
Kirsten Dunst may be what draws you in but Paul Bettany is the reason you don't walk out. The British actor who made an impression with American audiences playing the oh-so-witty Chaucer in A Knight's Tale and then wowed them in Oscar winners such as A Beautiful Mind and Master and Commander doesn't disappoint in his first lead role. Bettany's Peter embodies all that charm we've come to love and expect in our British actors--although thankfully not as floppy as Hugh Grant--he stumbles about and apologizes profusely. It's so cute. And he makes a pretty darn believable tennis player to boot (one would hope so after the intense training session the actors apparently had to go through to prepare for the movie). Unfortunately Dunst does not fare as well. Her Lizzie is appealing and she adequately handles the tennis stuff--but she ultimately fails to connect with her male lead making their relationship seem forced. Their beginning sparks are fun but when there's suppose to be a real flame igniting between them you're left scratching your head wondering just when where and why they fell in love so hard so fast. Yep that's a big red flag.
I've said sports movies usually work (see the Mr. 3000 review). To clarify: That is team sports. Sport movies where the action revolves around a single competitor are harder to pull off. It's just not as exciting watching an underdog struggle with himself in order to win. Luckily director Richard Loncraine (HBO's My House in Umbria) seems to know this fact. Even though Peter takes Centre Court (that's the British way of spelling it) Loncraine tries to at least create a more complete picture giving us a glimpse into the world of tennis as well as delving into the traditions of Wimbledon and how the Brits feel about the prestigious tournament where British champions are few and far between. Loncraine also utilizes real-life tennis pros such as John McEnroe and Chris Evert who appear as announcers to liven up the proceedings. Even the action on the court with close-up shots of the ball whizzing over the net gets the blood pumping a little--wish there was a lot more of that. But then of course one could just turn on the TV and watch the real Wimbledon instead watching a silly run-of-the-mill romantic comedy set there.