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Monday, March 15, 2010

The Cinematography Was Good, Though

The Time Traveler's Wife and I have a bit of history. Word of mouth about the book spread fairly early to me because of the time travel element, shortly after it had gone to second printing. I struggled through those first, awkward pages of a dual first-person narrative, convinced I could rise above it because the premise was so me. Ultimately, I fell in love with Niffenegger's rich prose, dimensional and imperfect characters, and the complexities of a love story told through the lens of fractured time. I had conversations with my agent about the path it took from tiny print to bestseller and its potential impact the same market I was aiming for. I wanted so much for the movie to find Titantic success, both for selfish I-want-to-adore-this-film reasons and for market reasons. It became important to me to find out how Audrey Niffenegger felt about the movie. It became my must-see for the year.

And I put off seeing it.

I'm sure you can guess why. I had built it up so much in my mind, fretted over how Niffenegger's melodic prose would fall through the cinematic cracks of a screenplay written by someone else, wondered if Eric Bana was the right man to play Henry because he looked nothing like my Henry. I wondered which pieces the writer and director would butcher in order to package it into a story experience that lasted no longer than the time it took to devour a large popcorn, extra butter. I was convinced I would be disappointed, so I waited through a mourning period of theater release until I could view it at home in the same chair I'd consumed the book all those months ago.

Bottom Line: I had sabotaged it from the beginning.

Brad Pitt, the actor tied to it at the movie's inception, would have come closer to my Henry. The at-times clunky dialogue would never have wormed its way into Niffenegger's prose. Because of those time constraints, we were only privy to Claire's fully-realized life through the lens of Henry's scenes and the moments that advanced the love story. The story of The Time Traveler's Wife became The Time Traveler's Love Affair and her character became all but lost. The tears I shed at the book's end were nowhere to be found amidst the sweeping cinematic music meant to evoke some cathartic emotion I didn't feel because I hadn't re-visited the depth and scope of their relationship together. In the book, Claire has moments where she wrestles with fidelity to a lover she doesn't see for years at a time. We witness her grow into a woman, not exclusively in Henry's shadow, but through her art and other relationships. In the movie, all we see is Clare's unyielding adoration from age six. Passionate? Yes. Deep Tragedy of Struggling Lovers? Not so much.

So in the end, this experiment proved nothing more than that which we avid readers already know: the book is almost always better.

Did you see TTTW? How did it compare, in your mind, to the book? Can you think of any movies that were better than the book?

7 comments:

the walking man said...

The movie Forrest Gump was much better than the book. The movie was tighter and less wandering than the the book.

I would have thought you'd want Depp or McGyver for the time traveler.

Jen said...

So sorry the movie wasn't all that it could or should have been.

And I can't think of an example because I almost always see the movie and then learn it's based on a book, which I rarely, if ever, go back to read.

Maybe The Notebook and Gone With the Wind.

Pamela Cayne said...

At risk of losing my sister-from-another-mother here, I have to say I haven't read the book or seen the movie. Don't know why--just haven't. (Ditto Bridges of Madison County and The Notebook.) I do hear you about the book to movie conundrum and think there are very few movies that do justice to the books from spawned them. I was going to say Harry Potter was the exception, but I have to admit disappointment to the last movie and hope they pull it back with #7 (parts one and two!)

Now, when they make a movie of one of your books, L.A., I think that's going to be my new standard for *awesome!* Cause it will be. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

I almost picked up this book the other day. Something stopped me. Maybe just some doubts that it would be my cup of tea.

Marilyn Brant said...

I loved, loved, loved TTTW as a novel and had about 5,000 issues with the film. I saw it in the theater and suspected the story would be too hard to depict visually. For me, it was just a mess. But, to be fair, it wasn't as though I could figure out how how to fix it had I been the director. I just don't think it EVER should have been a film.

On the other hand, I read and had some issues with The Jane Austen Book Club, but I really appreciated the changes the director made to the movie that, for me, highlighted the aspects of the story I liked best. Others probably disagreed with that interpretation, but it was one of the few situations where I truly preferred the film to the novel.

laughingwolf said...

did not see the flick nor read the book, so can't comment...

literarymiss said...

I couldn't wrap my mind around the book...I love time travel, and am an avid Doctor Who watcher, and all that fun stuff, but for some reason...I couldn't get into her writing style! It made me sad, because I've heard brilliant things about the book.

The movie, I watched and thought it was fair, but as I haven't read the book, I can't really compare...