Web designer/theatremaker Catherine Blake Smith and plant witch Sam Ro come out of the gate swinging with their first submission to 10YA, listing 69 thoughts in chronological order about why The Time Traveler’s Wife is a trash tornado of a movie.
Hello. We’re Catherine Blake Smith and Sam Ro and we’re here to tell you that The Time Traveler’s Wife is a garbage movie. It perpetuated the normalization of hetero/pedophile relationship culture in 2009 (under the guise of emotionally deep character relationships) and continues to perpetuate the normalization of hetero/pedophile relationship culture in 2019 with nothing to hide behind, save a small amount of apparent sanitization on the part of the filmmakers to decrease the amount of “old man grooming a small child to fall in love with him” part of the story. [Spoiler alert: that’s most of the story.]
Full disclosure: Sam has never read the book and saw the movie when it came out in the theatres. Catherine has never read the book and has not seen the movie until now. Both Sam and Catherine have seen Doctor Who.
Dear reader, it may shock you to learn that The Time Traveler’s Wife is a hot wastebasket of pedophile culture enabling drivel, but Rotten Tomatoes supports our argument: “Though it may satisfy fans of the novel, The Time Traveler’s Wife‘s plot contrivances and illogical narrative hamper its big-screen effectiveness.” The “plot contrivances and illogical narrative” include, but are not limited to: the Time Traveler’s Wife (TTW) only knowing she falls in love with and marries the Time Traveler (TT) because he came to her when she was a little girl and that his “disease” aka “chrono-impairment” means that he moves irregularly and naked throughout time with no rhyme or reason.
For those of you who have never seen The Time Traveler’s Wife, this basic plot will suffice: “A Chicago librarian suffers from a rare genetic disorder that sends him hurtling through time whenever he is under extreme duress; despite the fact that he vanishes at inordinately frequent and lengthy intervals, he attempts to build a stable future with the beautiful young heiress he loves. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams star in this dramatic fantasy, which is directed by Robert Schwentke and based on the best-selling book by author Audrey Niffenegger.” — Jason Buchanan, Rovi
For those of you who read the book and/or watched the movie and perhaps even enjoyed it as a 19-year-old baby like Sam, we offer our unadulterated thoughts in chronological order:
- Opera singer or not, TT’s mom wouldn’t sound that good singing in a fucking car before cars had heating. Come on, it is the late 1970s.
- We can both agree that Eric Bana is (usually) really attractive but is not in this movie because he is not wearing a Troy costume. He’s also not being dragged on the back on Brad Pitt’s chariot. Too bad.
- What would you do if a naked adult came up to you on a snowy Chicago night and told you that they were a time traveler and also that your mother was going to die in front of you? Wouldn’t you go straight to Arkham? Or would you travel throughout time irregularly and naked looking for a replacement mom?
- Catherine: “I’ve read and watched Charmed four times. IT IS A PARADOX TO CROSS YOUR OWN TIME STREAMS, ERIC.”
- Why can’t he take his clothes with him? What are the fucking rules of this place? Is it just so that the audience gets to see butts? Our desire to see butts is really struggling with our desire for a logical universe.
- Remember books? Remember desk-size Macintosh computers? Well you better fucking remember because you need them to be a research archivist in a library in the “nineties.”
- Catherine: “Sam, he looks like your husband with that hair.”
Sam has now checked out of the movie.
- Okay. So TT can’t bring his clothing with him while he time-travels. And he time-travels because he’s a paper bag-drinking alcoholic? And as a severe alcoholic, he gets up at 6 am for a jog on most mornings. And he can’t control his naked time-traveling because… alcohol? We sense a heavy-handed metaphor! But what is it for?
- Their first meeting (according to TT’s timeline) contains dialogue so thin that we can see the end of our patience through it.
- TTW: “You told me to go easy on you and I’m not.” So… he groomed her for this?
- Apparently their first date is at a Thai restaurant because it’s his favorite. This is how we get “worldly” character development in this 2009 film. This pasty motherfucker is NOT picking the Thai restaurant as his favorite. That guy is eating a crustless mayo sandwich with his bag vodka.
- This movie is just Eric Bana’s butt. That’s probably why Sam’s mom liked it so much.
- TT’s mullet is actually just Dustin Hoffman’s All the President’s Men hair. You’re off the hook, Chad!
- So they’re on their first date and she tells him his whole life (as he’s told it to her). She quickly segues into “appropriate wife topics” such as: he shouldn’t drink anymore, this is his future doctor’s name who possibly cures his problem, and this is how he should take care of himself for the rest of his days. Worst first date ever, but guess all that CHILDHOOD GROOMING paid off. Pardon us while we vomit. HOW is she in love with him?? Then they go back to his place and she says this is the youngest he’s ever been. Ew. So that means he has he been visiting her when he’s an old man? Oh wait—he has. She’s only ever known him when he was in his 40s, and now she’s 20 years old (in the book, she’s 18 when they have sex for the first time). Pedophile culture is: coming to a child and essentially making her promise herself to you—and in this movie, it happens tangentially to a first-time sex and relationship montage. /screed
- Cut to the first time he meets child-version of Wife right after the sex scene. This feels really, really icky.
- TT: “Don’t call your mom!” He’s standing naked in front of an eight-year-old. Please call your mom, kid. And run. Run first. Then call your mom. Also, having a scene in which a little girl asks a naked, postcoital, grown-ass man if she’s pretty, and he replies “Yes” is in POOR TASTE. TT disappears in front of the small child, thus scarring her for life.
- TT: “I’ll be back again.” Please don’t.
- “Mature and worldly person” is how TTW describes TT to himself. Because besides liking Thai food, they now have vaguely Asian decor in their apartment and wear bulky turtlenecks. This is considered mature and worldly. God, there’s such a low bar for cis/het men.
- All the dialogue in the scene following their first night together is paraphrased Twilight. Do not @ us.
- Burger from SatC is here to play the douchey BFF who talks over the only POC actor in the film, whom he is dating. 2009 everyone.
- Because we had the captions on, we were able to catch this gem of a shitty white man line about why he couldn’t wash the dishes or some shit. Burger: “First of all, I’m a man. Second of all, I’m a guest here.” REALLY? Stfu, Burger.
- Burger’s girlfriend (the POC actor mentioned earlier who later becomes his wife and mother of his children) doesn’t get to talk the entire movie but is somehow TTW’s BFF. Perhaps this casting choice is supposed to make them look like good liberals. Pass the bucket, we’re going to vomit.
- Sam: “Wait, he’s a research librarian?” Catherine: “That’s why he’s in the archives with his dick out.”
- TTW’s BFF (possibly they are roommates??) has staged a dinner to meet this mysterious new boyfriend who randomly and frequently disappears. Now TT is reading TTW’s diary. TT knows that it contains all the dates that he visits TTW and in a bout of circular reasoning befitting the drunk and naked TT, he insists that he is entitled to read her diary because she once showed it to him as a little girl (#grooming) and how else is going to know when to visit her?!? How else will he know when to tell her to leave clothes out for him??!? TTW tries to kick him out. Following two minutes of classic white man simpering, she dissipates her justifiable anger and asks him to stay the night. Ew.
- TT is beating up a dude in an alley while wearing a pink tank and jorts. Burger witnesses this fight happening (because convenient storytelling) and pulls TT out of the fight. TT calls the man he was beating up a homophobe. This is what passes for character development in this movie, folks! There are no gay people anywhere in this movie, but it’s 2009 and we have to make the character look like an edgy, smart liberal, so let’s have him defend the gays! In response, Sam wants to fling their gay body into oncoming traffic. Catherine wants to support Sam in whatever it is they wish to do because allyship.
- Catherine: “Jesus. His entire life is just announcing that he’s a time traveler and putting on stolen, ill-fitting clothes.” Accurate tagline.
- TTW: “I love him,” she says with no meaningful character development (unless you count the grooming?!).
- This whole “wife who deals with man’s eccentricities but still stands by him” thing is tired. Even for 2009. For context, The Good Wife came out this same year.
- TT goes back in time and meets his mom on a subway. They creepily stare at each other. Then TT launches nonconsensual emotional labor on Mom, bringing up his anxieties about TTW with no context. This is basically a conversation between two strangers. And the director OK’ed this crap take. The scene is too short to even believe that they have connected and THEN they have a final stare before he leaves? Well we know where he gets creepiness from—leering at someone you haven’t introduced yourself to clearly runs on his mother’s side of the family.
- We have decided to stop believing anything in this fucking movie. Why do these people love each other? Because a writer said so? Stfu Audrey Niffenegger.
- Dead parent cliché, meet resentful parent cliché in Alcoholic Father and Son That We Don’t Care About: The Movie! We also considered Long Day’s Journey into Time-Traveling Boredom. See Appendix B for additional titles.
- Catherine: “THERAPY! You all need THERAPY!”
- God this movie is trash. Sam acknowledges that 19-year-old Sam loved this movie and had bad taste.
- So, he wants to propose to her and just… puts the ring on her finger after the camera has been focused on her hand for an eternity. She then wakes up and is clearly going to say “Yes” but says “No” before saying yes as “an expression of free will” when confronted with a non-consensual marriage proposal. This scene is everything that is wrong with the movie. This stunt isn’t funny or cute; it’s just what a bunch of straight people thought a “free-spirited” woman might do in 2009. We’re now an hour into this wet, sloppy dumpster and the movie is STILL clamoring to establish love between two New-York-style-pizza-thin heterosexual characters.
- Good god, is their wedding happening on a plantation? TTW’s Dick Cheney-looking dad starts off with “Do you ever do any hunting?” (foreshadowing!!) and TTW’s mom says something about TTW’s straight hair “always being difficult.” (Geez, neg much, mom?) These people definitely voted for Trump and definitely think ketchup is spicy. We also continue with the ham-fisted character establishment.
- TT to Dick Cheney: “I’m usually the one getting chased…” WHAT THE FUCK
- Dick Cheney: “It’s just like they say, life’s a hunt” UMMMM. Who says this?
- “Don’t swear, we’re getting married,” TT says to TTW during their vows.
Sam: “I swore at my wedding, at my husband!” You can fuuuuUUUUUUcccck all the way off, TT.
- This wedding is a fucking mess though. TT disappears and reappears several times and gets a dramatic entrance into the wedding while TTW sits there and blinks at him a lot. Sam, having been the bride before, is filled with rage.
- NO ONE JUMPS ON THE BED ON THEIR WEDDING NIGHT. PASS OUT LIKE A NORMAL STRESSED OUT AND UNDERFED COUPLE.
- And then he disappears. Because of course he does. Honestly, TTW, this is your time to get a decent orgasm and some extra sleep. You earned it dealing with your gross parents and your groom getting better entrances than you with multiple costume and hmu changes.
- Please do not have a picnic with your child wife (who is wearing too much makeup and bordering on a toddler in a tiara) right after you marry her as an adult. This Makeup Baby talks about how her daddy is mean and doesn’t spend time with her. So she has to go find another daddy—obviously. (fuck)
- Now we have a montage of their married life! Thank goodness they didn’t show their relationship developing. That would be too much to ask for. Of course their married life is him disappearing in the middle of dinners she has lovingly prepared for him (yes, he did drop a plate while he was “setting the table” god, men will do ANYTHING TO GET OUT OF HOUSEWORK) and now, while he’s gone for weeks on end (TTW: “My life doesn’t stop when you’re gone” DIDN’T IT, CLARE???), instead of having a beautiful lesbian affair (wish we’d been watching that movie instead), she just continues to have a successful career as a printmaker, stockpiling cash to purchase a million-dollar home. ?!?! Oh right, she’s an heiress.
- They argue after he hasn’t come back for two weeks and missing Christmas AND New Year’s and making her deal with Dick Cheney and Neg Mom during the holidays ALONE. TTW definitely deserves to be upset and TT is definitely a prick about it.
- TTW: “The TVs are going to set you off!” as they walk into a store FULL OF TVS. This topic has never come up before. What the fuck are the rules of his time-traveling? He also led her in here so he could cheat on the lottery, which Charmed also told us is not allowed.
- We sin this House Hunters montage of decrepit Chicago mansions. We also note that it is the SECOND montage of the film.
- So TTW has to be fucking moral compass because TT doesn’t have a mother and TTW’s Dick Cheney Daddy ignores her so TT has to time-travel and groom her from a young age to become her new daddy?? We mean, husband??? Who are these people?!
- Catherine: “Do they ever talk about hobbies, or politics, or interests…? No?”
- The geneticist they seek out is the most generic white man of them all, Stephen Tobolowsky. Dr. Stephen has apparently coined the phrase “chrono-impairment” which is a disease TT has and is never spoken about again. This is this movie’s qualifier in order to categorize it as “sci-fi.” No. Just no.
- TT to Dr. Stephen: “You see, that’s the thing about Time-Travel!” Please recut this movie this as a comedy.
- During this entire movie, TT has been proving that he’s a time traveler to anyone who asks. Literally, anyone. But when Dr. Stephen doesn’t believe that time-travel is real even though TTW told him that this was the doctor who names his disease (because TT told him what it is), TT gets huffy and leaves. Pout much?
- TT: “My wife just had a miscarriage! Better chase down this geneticist and finally prove to him that I’m a time traveler instead of helping her out with that whole thing!”
- TT: “I’m so hurt by all these babies dying. The only solution is to get a secret vasectomy!” Enjoy that bodily autonomy, man.
- Oh, you’re going to disappear while you’re in the bathroom, go back in time to when your wife was 18, give her her first kiss, then come back and get that secret vasectomy. Coolcoolcool.
- TT: “This is my vasectomy walk!”
- Post-secret vasectomy, TT tells TTW about that time he kissed 18-year-old her (This. Is. Grooming. Also, in the book, they had sex). TTW gets upset because she feels like she’s been tricked all her life (she has) but she doesn’t leave TT. They continue to argue about having children and he says that he “doesn’t want any more babies to die.” This is to the woman who’s had six miscarriages. TT, we hope you die. [Spoiler alert: you fucking do.]
- Understandably under the amount of emotional stress TTW is under, she complains about her husband to a younger version of her husband and then cheats on her husband with her husband so that she can get pregnant by her husband because her husband made a choice that involved them both but he did it secretly behind her back without involving her. TTW tells her husband in the present (but remember, there is no present with a time traveler) that she’s pregnant (of fucking course she is), so they just shouldn’t fight about anymore. UGH.
- Now that TT has decided to be a daddy despite literally getting surgery to prevent that potential, we don’t get to see his butt anymore. Harrumph.
- Dr. Stephen: “It’s a girl!” This is to a couple that has no business having small girl children in their home.
- At this point in the movie, we’ve determined that time-traveling is basically a metaphor for an anxiety disorder. TT mostly times travels when he’s worried about something or anxious about being emotionally honest. This disorder is exacerbated by alcohol. Hey. And we can’t stress this enough: THERAPY.
- “DADDY!” yells TT’s future child while running away from her friends and teacher in a public spot. TT’s future child (Alba) acknowledges that he’s been dead for five years so WHY is this child’s teacher not FLIPPING THE FUCK OUT about this 10-year-old running off with a strange man. Alba is also revealed to be a time-traveling prodigy. Told you this movie was Twilight.
- Catherine wonders why we’re still getting exposition with 30 minutes left in this trash tornado of a movie.
- We’ve entered a THIRD montage. A THIRD MONTAGE. T H R E E.
- Alba goes back in time to play with her younger, five-year-old self. She tells her younger self that Daddy is going to die but that it’s going to be okay. You’re a great friend to you, kid. We just realized that we have never once see these adults interact meaningfully with this child, which tells us that this child is probably just raising herself at this point. Parentification is trash.
- Stfu TT, TTW knows how to fucking cook. She can baste a turkey. Okay well now you’re stressing her out and she’s not basting it enough because you were FREAKING, OH MY GOD STOP. Okay, well you’re going to have a dry turkey now, you fuck.
- Oops. We talked through their whole goodbye scene because it was boring and they were just petting each other’s faces.
- Oh no, Dick Cheney is back. We’re positive it’s the real Dick Cheney because he just shot what is clearly a naked human and not a deer.
- Will no one call an ambulance for the wounded protagonist? No, no. He must continue to lay there dying on the floor, naked.
- Now we see TTW mourning as she lays in bed, fully clothed, because grieving. Alba comforts her because she is an expert. And now we know which of these people is the parent in their relationship. Poor prodigy child. Alba is her own mom.
- Post-death TT emerges from the woods because there’s apparently still weirdness to be had in this story that won’t end. It’s not charming. TT to TTW: “I don’t want you to spend your life waiting for me.” But that’s literally the movie.
- TTW and child prove just how much they won’t spend their lives waiting by returning to her childhood home to put clothes out for TT at the Usual Spot. They exchange jokes about TT being naked up in the trees. Romantic music swells, and they stroll back to Dick Cheney’s house and talk about voting for Joe Biden one day and how Kevin Spacey is such a great actor. Catherine and Sam die.
APPENDIX A: WHAT WE LEARNED
- Republicans are murderers
- Pedophile culture is alive and well
- Rachel McAdams is a good actor
- Eric Bana’s greatest scenework was of his butt (and nothing else)
- In the early 2000s, coats were only amazing or horrible and as a successful print artist, you too could own a million-dollar home in Chicago
- And everything about Movie Weddings is wrong, including this one where the groom disappears no less than THREE TIMES
- We didn’t have any alcohol while watching this film… not sure that was a good choice.
APPENDIX B: WHILE WATCHING, WE BRAINSTORMED ALTERNATE TITLES FOR THIS FILM (WE MAY NOT HAVE HAD ALCOHOL BUT WE WERE DEFINITELY STONED)
- The Pedophile Song
- Lolita-Lite… In Space
- Alba is Her Own Mom
- Long Day’s Journey into Time-Traveling Boredom
APPENDIX C: POST-SCRIPT
Pedophile culture is real y’all. It’s everywhere you look. So much so, that we after we finished watching The Time Traveler’s Wife, we followed it up with the only acceptable representation of pedophile culture in modern media: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
— Catherine Blake Smith & Sam Ro