At The Movies
Left-wing TV commentator Chris Matthews said that he felt a “chill going up his leg” whenever he saw or heard Presidential candidate Barack Obama. I don’t know about a chill up the leg but sometimes I see a movie, think about it, and I get a really upbeat, excited feeling about it; a feeling I might not have had when I walked out of the screening.
That’s how I felt the morning after while thinking about “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” which I saw the previous evening. I knew I liked it when I exited the screening but the next morning I realized that I didn’t just like it. Like Sally Field, I really liked it because I kept thinking about many of the incidents that took place. This is well done but it’s not your standard time-warper in the style of “Somewhere in Time” (1980) or the all-time best “The Final Countdown” (also 1980).
Enormously romantic, it’s not only the love between the two protagonists, Clare (Rachel McAdams) and Henry (Eric Bana), but between Henry and his mother, Annette DeTamble (Michelle Nolden). Nolden isn’t in many scenes but she gives a beautiful performance.
McAdams could be the best romantic lead actress extant. Her performance is what made “The Notebook” (2004) such a tear-jerkingly memorable experience. Her eyes convey such expression that she really doesn’t need to speak for the viewer to know what she’s feeling.
For his part, Bana is rapidly becoming an actor to rival Russell Crowe as the best actor to come from “down under” since Errol Flynn (Bana and Flynn were born in Australia; Crowe in New Zealand). He’s been vicious (2005’s “Munich”), funny (2009’s “Funny People”) and now romantic. Whenever he appears, he leaves a memorable impression.
Henry is a “time traveler” who involuntarily is whisked from the present to another time but always a time in his life. He always arrives at his new destination naked, which causes problems. Clare meets him as a young girl but from the perspective of the movie, they are already married. It’s a bit confusing but hey, it’s a time-warp movie! The viewer gets it as it goes along.
This could have had a lot of plot holes but it is brilliantly written (Bruce Joel Cohen from the book by Audrey Niffenegger) and directed (German Robert Schwentke). The story is told in a non-linear fashion, much as Henry is living his life in a non-linear way. First he’s here, then he’s there, and then he’s back to here again. All the time Clare is waiting for him. They have their problems but they arise and resolve them in ways that are eminently believable.
This is a touching, romantic winner that engendered some tears (as good romances often do), and stayed with me long after I left the theater; a true test of a time-warp movie.
In the Loop
Runtime: 106 Minutes
Not for Children
This is a fast-paced farce loaded with F-bombs and other profanities that is side-splittingly funny. It professes to show the backstage political action by the British that got the UN to approve the Iraq invasion.
Malcolm Tucker (Peter Capaldi) is the director of communications for the unseen and unnamed British Prime Minister. He vituperatively attacks a new Cabinet Minister named Simon Foster (Tom Hollander) when Simon tells a radio interviewer that war is “unforeseeable.” Tucker’s contumelious invective is delivered rapid-fire, and is unceasing and uproariously funny. He takes on everyone in the cast, ordering the hapless Foster to Washington to pledge British support for an invasion.
As with any farce, things go from horrible to excruciatingly funny as they get worse and worse, and Malcolm gets more and more upset (although it’s hard to imagine him being even more upset than he is in the opening scenes).
This is brilliantly directed by Armando Iannucci, who also directed “The Thick of It,” a British TV series in which Capaldi also appeared as Tucker. What adds immensely to the fun is Iannucci’s cinéma vérité cinematography that puts the viewer in the middle of the pandemonium taking place on the screen. One barely has time to take a deep breath, so fast is the dialogue.
This is no left-wing diatribe, even though the good guys oppose the war. It’s an indictment of government in general but its main purpose is to make people laugh, and laugh I did. Hurry up, though, if you want to see it. Although there were lots of people at my showing (most, interestingly, were seniors), it’s possible that it won’t be showing much longer.