You know what I mean. Book or movie? Which comes first? Everyone has their own idea. I tend to think that I actually enjoy a movie better if I haven’t read the book first. Probably something to do with the idea that nothing on the big screen can live up to what we picture in our minds when we read a book. And, obviously, everyone has their own distinct visual interpretation of a book. I always pictured Robert Langdon (of The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons) looking like Liam Neeson, and frankly nothing like Tom Hanks who portrayed the character on screen. Did it cloud my opinion of those movies due to the picture in my head? Probably, & that is my overall argument for seeing a movie first. It doesn’t have to live up to the book (which on most occasions is vastly superior). But of course the flip side to that is that you may ruin your ability to create the characters/story in your mind, if they have already been dictated to you by a movie. Pick your poison, I guess.
But if there is one hard & fast rule of movies adapted from books, it is that once you start the book you don’t see the movie until you finish it. Which is precisely the rule that I broke last Friday when I went to see The Time Traveler’s Wife.
Okay, so here’s my case. A girlfriend of mine was heading out to dinner & a movie & extended me an invite to join her. My hubby was home, I didn’t need a babysitter & I could have used a girls night badly. One problem. I’m about 150 pages into the book, The Time Traveler’s Wife. So, do I miss out on a girls night, not to break a literary rule, or do I say “what the heck” & go? Well obviously I went, & I’m fairly glad I did, as I confirmed my theory that I should see the movie before I read the book.
The Time Traveler’s Wife is the story of Henry DeTamble (Eric Bana), a man who, since he was 5 years old, travels through time to big moments & places in his life. He meets Clare Abshire (Rachel McAdams) when she is 6 & he is 36, but when a 20 year old Clare runs into her present-day 28 year old contemporary Henry, he doesn’t know her, yet she has known him most of her life. Honestly, the time travel can be sort of mind-numbing at times as you find yourself falling into thoughts of the chicken before the egg. Several times I actually had to remind myself to watch the movie & stop trying to figure out the physics of all of it.
Beyond the time travel, The Time Traveler’s Wife is a fairly standard love story. They meet, they fall in love, they marry, they try to have kids, they have problems, they have joys, they have tragedies. The thing that sets it apart is that very early on we learn from Henry that you can’t change things. Whatever happened, happened (shout out to LOST fans!!). So, when mid-way through the movie the main characters (& us, as the audience) are startled with a glimpse of the future, you are waiting, with that tidbit in the back of your mind, for the inevitable.
The movie is beautiful. From the first scene you know you are in for a visual treat. Lighting, sets, exteriors, even the actors…all gorgeous. But unfortunately for me beauty could only carry the film so far. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the movie, but the one thing that should have clicked (I mean absolutely needed to click) was the two main characters, Clare & Henry. Unfortunately the chemistry was only ever just okay between McAdams & Bana. I’m not quite sure why, they are two of the most beautiful people in the world, but you never quite buy this is the timeless love portrayed in the book (even the 150 pages that I have read). Their chemistry is not even in the same league as the chemistry that McAdams had with Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.
Which is precisely why I am glad that I saw the movie first (or at least sort of first). I’m fairly certain that the chemistry problem that was a minor-ish problem for me, would have been a major-ish problem, had I read the book. I could enjoy the movie on its own merits, & come home to finish the book & enjoy the full, fleshed-out story on the page.
So, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get going. I have a couple hundred pages waiting for me.