Recently, another tremendous film selection aimed at the borderline-suicidal lonely-hearts (mostly female) crowd has appeared on the radar: “The Time Traveler’s Wife”. This ambitious cinematic achievement, despite its apparent novelty, is–to my mind–startling in its banality and unoriginality. Audrey Niffenegger deserves only shame for her attempt to foist her cheap variation of Benjamin Button upon us, as if we had never experienced the true visionary glimpse of the despair of contemporary hetero-romantics, the awesome transcendence of love and the power of time travel that ties it all together….
When the issue of “love…time travel…” comes up, I am instantly TRANSPORTED to a state of reflection upon the 2006 box office epic “The Lake House” starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. After such a mental JOURNEY, it is clear, that “The Time Traveler’s Wife” suffers terribly by comparison (and no, not just because Keanu Reeves is not in the film).
[DISCLAIMER: AUTHOR HAS SEEN NEITHER FILM, BUT HAS SEEN THE PREVIEWS FOR BOTH AND FEELS COMFORTABLE GOING ON]
The Time Traveler’s Wife is a completely ordinary run-of-the-mill “boy and girl fall madly in love and live happily ever after EXCEPT boy has a secret that interferes with the happy linear timeline (he randomly travels backwards through time)” story. This of course reflects the extremely ordinary and uninteresting (though well justified) typical female complaints about the distance, unreliability and emotional unavailability of men, the regressive childishness of men as they age, and so on. Since when do people need to pay 15 dollars to see their daily frustrations played out in such straightforward and unremarkable form? Further, the plot uses the cheap and all-too-common 21st-century crutch of “science” to explain the problem (a “genetic disorder” causes the time travel).
The Lake House, on the other hand (in addition to starring Keanu Reeves), is an astonishing cinematic tour de force that blasts beyond the reach of science, logic, conventional relationships and their trivial difficulties to a place of insurmountable despair overcome only by the power of a mailbox attached to a cool, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque lake house. Sandra Bullock, the lonely single female, finds herself living in a “unique” and “seductive” lake house. She feels “seduced” by the house (note to self: does anyone know the Latin term for the sexual fetish involving buildings–or more specifically, residences..?). Already, I am on alert to the incredibly hopeless state of being reflected in Bullock’s character insofar as she has apparently lost such a degree of hope in finding “the one” of the opposite sex (a common enough complaint among modern western heterosexual females it is true–but look to what extreme it is pushed here!!) that she absently channels her amorous feelings into an inanimate bundle of steel and glass that sits indifferently on a tepid body of water.
But, as Gina Gershon’s character says to Tom Cruise in the film Cocktail: “It only gets better…”
Bullock’s lonely character comes to find that she can miraculously “communicate” (via handwritten letter of course–how wonderfully 19th century) with the previous tenant of the “lake house” thanks to the inexplicable (and there is not even an attempt here–kudos to David Auburn) ability of the “mailbox” to act as a “time-traveling” device. Thus, the previous tenant–NONE OTHER THAN SIR KEANU REEVES (I don’t think he’s a KBE, but he should be and has apparently been elevated as such by this article)–who was also mysteriously “seduced” by the lake house (which subtlely raises the extraordinary and intriguing possibility of a male-building-female menage a trois erotic encounter in which the building is the primary receiving partner) shares himself with Bullock’s character in a dialogue that transcends the ordinary space-time continuum, and so begins the long-time but no-distance “romance” between the characters….
So, in conclusion:
(1) The Lake House is clearly darker, more nihilistic, and thus bolder and more deserving of praise. The Time Traveler’s Wife presents only the ordinary difficulties of male-female romantic relationships in contemporary times (i.e. it assumes those relationships are quite possible and frequent, only “difficult”). The Lake House on the other hand operates from the premise that contemporary male-female romantic relationships are literally IMPOSSIBLE (well, impossible under normal spatio-temporal conditions as we understand them).
(2) The Lake House is clearly more original. While The Time Traveler’s Wife trots out the well-worn cliche of the man who lives backwards through time thus inconveniently affecting his “relationships” (Benjamin Button?), the Lake House posits a man and woman who are unable to find love and yet–through the magical interference of an inanimate third party–are able to literally transcend time and find each other as secondary partners of the eponymous Lothario of the film: THE LAKE HOUSE…
Can’t you just FEEL the magic of THE LAKE HOUSE…?