Monday, February 15, 2010

I'm actually going to say something nice about 'The Time Traveler's Wife'.

I just rented 'The Time Traveler's Wife', or rather, my wife did. It's not the kind of title that tends to appeal to me –– it sounds like a chick flick –– and while some chick flicks are actually good ('Bridget Jones' Diary' comes to mind, but if you tell my wife I said that, I'll deny it), most drive down the same deeply rutted path of "woman-remarkable-only-because-she's-played-by-attractive-movie-star-survives-misplaced-affection-for-cad-only-to-find-true-love-with-secret-prince/millionaire-who-ultimately-spurns-all-others-and-declares-undying-love-for-her-because-she's-distinguished-by-being-the-story's-protagonist."

Which in its defense, this film didn't. Instead, we have a creepy story about a middle-aged man who over the course of years brainwashes an impressionable girl into thinking he's the love of her life. Or maybe I'm just sensitive because I have a daughter.


The film had some huge problems (your five-year-old daughter unintentionally travels through time and space, landing buck naked God-knows-where-and-when and you're okay with it because she tells you she's "learning to control it?"). Okay, I am sensitive. There are other problems, too, and if you want I'll go into them, but that's not what I'm here to write about today.

I'm here to write about how the film actually managed to succeed in one small way. One performance really sticks out. It's a scene between Eric Bana –– who plays Henry, the guy who inadvertently travels through time –– and Michelle Nolden, who plays Henry's long dead mother.

He follows her onto the subway, stares at her for a while, and then tells her he loves her.

Michelle Nolden nails this scene.

What makes her performance so good is that it's so right. Henry's mom is a singer, and she has no idea that the guy she's talking to is her grown-up son, come back in time to try and assuage his guilt over her impending death. As far as she knows, she's being hit on by some good-looking guy her age, admired by an adoring fan, or accosted by a deranged stranger. She plays it with just the right level of appreciation, caution, and weirded-outness. When she delivers "I'm glad I met you, too," the amount of insincerity in her voice is just perfect.

And she gets huge bonus points because Eric Bana isn't much help. He plods through the lines opposite her without any focus at all.

I'm cringing as I write this, but I'm going to say it anyway: Rent the film. Just fast forward about 27 1/2 minutes in and watch the train scene. Then turn it off and put on something decent.

Even if it is a chick flick.