Since I am likely the last person on Earth to read The Time Traveler's Wifewho would have inclination to do so, I'm going to eschew a typical review and instead compare it to the recent film adaptation (the film came out in August 2009; the DVD is forthcoming).
My official opinion is that the film stinks. It's everything I feared the book would be and was not.
Niffenegger could have easily written The Time Traveler's Wife as another Nicholas Sparks novel - all chaste passion set in a filmy do-or-die world. In fact, the film comes off as The Notebook's poor cousin. The comparison is irresistible since Rachel McAdams appears in both, except that there is genuine chemistry between the leads in The Notebook that The Time Traveler's Wife lacks.
I'm not going to fuss over the drippy acting, though. What offended me was that the film stripped away everything off-kilter and therefore original about the book. Here's why the film is dead in the water (CAUTION! Major spoilers ahead):
- Where the heck is Ingrid? Ingrid is Henry (the time traveler's) girlfriend before he meets Clare (the title character). That Henry has to travel back in time to watch her suicide is gruesome, dark and awesome. It shows Henry not as some pretty-boy guardian angel but the flawed person he is - it helps to flesh out his pre-Clare sins and takes his time travel beyond sentimental encounters with his mother (when alive) and his future wife.
- Henry gets to keep his feet! In the movie Henry gets a little bitty frostbite. In the book Niffenegger has his frickin' feet sawed off. When I read that I was like, OH GOD WHY?? but also, good job! Lady took her romantic hero and had him seriously maimed. It's gross but it's a darn gutsy move for a romance book.
- Clare & Henry are seriously boring. In the novel the love-struck duo bond over awesome music like The Violent Femmes. In the movie they're seen to be at a random concert but there's no mention of their love for punk and other rad musical genres. Lame.
- Clare is neutered. From the moment I saw Rachel McAdams all shiny-eyed and dopey in the film I knew she was going to throw herself under the bus for film-version Henry. She more or less does this in the book but at least she has an iota of personality. The fact that she's a paper-maker and sculptor is never explained in the film and her fling with Gomez is axed. In the book she's gutsy, arty and sexual. In the film she's a sweater-wearing ankle biter. It's no good.
- The ending is all wrong. Clare is left hanging in both versions but the film seriously downplays Clare's anguish at being left without the love of her life. In the film she sniffles a bit and then gets to see and touch him within five years of his death. In the books, well, shit is bad. The novel reached farther, went darker, and so hits you harder. The film is just sanitized drip.