The Watchcast: "The Time Traveler's Wife"

In which Ty and Meredith plumb the mysteries and pleasurable idiocies of the "magic romance" sub-genre.

The Watchcast: "The Time Traveler's Wife"
Bath, Time: Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in “The Time Traveler’s Wife”
The Watchcast: "The Time Traveler's Wife"

For the third of our podcast chats on romcoms, rom-drams, and the verities of watching other people fall in love onscreen, Meredith Goldstein and I address the weird, addictive nature of “magic romance” movies — those heart-tuggers that rely on a supernatural twist often having to do with time. As in: The lovers in “Benjamin Button”/”The Lake House”/”Serendipity”/”About Time”[Insert your favorite example of cinematic headcheese here] would be happy forever if they could just somehow be together in the same place at the same time.

The particular example we’re using for the purposes of discussion/dissection is “The Time Traveler’s Wife” (2009), in which Rachel McAdams (of course) has to make do with a love interest (Eric Bana) who keeps popping in and out of her life from different periods in his. (And he always arrives naked. Why? Because.) No, it doesn’t make sense, that’s what’s fun about it, although, as Meredith and I discuss, the scenes where the time traveling hunk appears to the child version of his eventual bride are dissonant in ways the movie isn’t remotely equipped to handle. Even the film’s trailer is cringe-y in this regard.

Still, “The Time Traveler’s Wife” serves as a metaphor — as all magic romances do — for emotional realities that have fueled movie melodramas since the heyday of the classic Hollywood “woman’s picture.” To wit, in this case: What do you do with a man who’s handsome and charming and sweet but just can’t be relied on to be there? Said melodramas never come up with an answer but instead just act out the feelings; that’s why they can be critically indefensible on one hand and oddly affecting on the other. (It’s also why “The Time Traveler’s Wife” is getting remade as an HBO/HBO Max series, starring Theo James and Rose Leslie, due later this spring.)

Lots to chew over here, so give a listen — and come back in a few weeks when Meredith and I talk about foreign-language romance movies, specifically Wong Kar-wai’s 2000 masterpiece “In the Mood for Love",” for our fourth and final podcast on the subject.

“The Time Traveler’s Wife” can be streamed on HBO Max and rented just about everywhere.

Our first Watchcast was about the 2002 Jennifer Lopez/Ralph Fiennes romcom “Maid in Manhattan” and can be found here.

Our second was on the Powell-Pressburger classic “I Know Where I’m Going!” (1945), one of the greatest examples of the “I Can’t Fall in Love With You, I Just Can’t, Oh Hell” romances, and can be found here.

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