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|Ms. Hipster has been
swearing by this book for years now. She claims I'd like it, despite
it being a book club choice of her women's book club who, quite honestly,
tend to read stuff that would make me want to light myself on fire.
Luckily I'm not invited to that lovefest, and all suggestions that
I've made to Ms. Hipster that have gotten accepted by her comrades
have all gone over like a fart at an OCD convention. So it was with
a little trepidation that I dialed this thing up one night--ironically
a night I believe she was out at book club.
Now I'm not a complete asshole; I understand that comparing a book
to a movie based on it is like wondering why Angelina Jolie's stunt
double doesn't have that certain something that Ms. Jolie has. They
are often pale copies of the printed page--with few exceptions. Granted,
that same book group all went to see this movie together after reading
the book and the claim was there wasn't a dry eye in the house. Girls.
Sheesh. So I sat on the couch and pressed play.
I kind of had an idea of the narrative here, but in a nutshell there's
this dude who travels backward and forward in time during his own
lifetime, but he exists both in the present and the current and the
past. Uh. In other words, he can cross paths with himself--or not
at all. He can't control the travelling, and tends to travel more
when under stress. The issue is he's always under stress, as he travels
naked and when he shows up wherever in time he is, he has to break
and enter and steal clothes and whatnot in order to not draw attention
to his nakedness. The thing is he keeps coming back to certain places
that are important for some apparent reason, and keeps coming back
to one woman--a woman he eventually marries.
The weird thing is once he travels somewhere he takes the age of himself
in that world when he next travels. So he can leave a situation as
his 25-year-old self and show back up later as his 40-year-old self.
It's a bit confusing, really, and I'm sure they do a better job of
explaining in the book, but it's obviously a little odd when he shows
up as an age that hasn't yet met the woman who is his wife and doesn't
know who she is. Though, of course, he met his wife when he traveled
to a time when she was a little girl and he was an adult. So technically
he's known his wife since she was little, and she has a recollection
of a man visiting her out of the blue as a child--a memory that doesn't
exist in some time periods of the traveler's life. So he'll drop into
periods where she exists in his life and he has no idea she exists
but since she's known him since childhood, she always knows who he
is and has had an intention since being a child that she was going
to marry him, but had to wait for things to kinda sync up properly.
Whew. My explanation is terrible. Anyway, the concept here is sweet.
The execution, however, is lacking in some way I can't quite put my
finger on. What should be a romantic and heartbreaking thing is somehow
goofy and clumsy and overly dramatic when it shouldn’t be and not
dramatic enough when it should be. And Eric Bana is stiff and about
as charismatic as a rotting squash. Rachel McAdams is fine acting-wise,
but her character is almost a little pathetic in her passiveness and
dedication to a life with this man who can’t really be there for her.
I guess that’s the romantic thing, maybe? It's something that I keep losing my
grip on. Romance, that is. The filmmakers certainly go for the cry-jugular (to coin a terrible phrase) at the end of the film, but even that lacks the emotional
punch and artistic flair that could have to at least turned this flaccid
adaptation into something viable. Score another one apparently for
the printed word. [HBO On Demand, MF]