Friday, July 07, 2006

Time Travel Trouble

I suppose I should change my blog header, as this, the last and perhaps the next post are about movies rather than books or writing. It's summer time, though, and I've given my brain permission to indulge in pleasures that don't require it to work so much, thus movies instead of books.

Last night my friend and I took in a 12:01 viewing of the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie (woohoo - I had a movie date!!). Won't talk on that now, since there's a good chance I'll go with the hubby this weekend and may have more to say later. It's good. Really good. Kind of long, but since they feed you up some Orlando Bloom and Johnny Depp eye candy, who can complain?

This afternoon I found myself with some rare kid-free time and took in a matinee of the romantic 100% chick-flick, The Lake House. It stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, both of whom I thought had oodles of chemistry between them in Speed.

Before I go any further, I want to warn about some major SPOILERS in this review. If you haven't seen it and have any plans to see it, don't read any further. I think the key to enjoying this film is seeing it cold, without knowing how it all plays out, which I explain soon.

If you've seen it or don't care about spoilers and are reading on, the premise of the movie is great. Keanu plays architect Alex Wyler, Sandra Bullock a doctor, Kate Forester. Both characters spend time in a glass-and-steel lake house designed and built by Alex's father. The story begins when Kate moves out of the lake house and leaves a note behind asking the next tennant to forward her mail. When Alex shows up and pulls Kate's letter out of the mailbox then replies to it, a correspondence between the two begins and love soon follows. The twist comes in the form of time; Alex is living in the year 2004 while Kate exists two years later, in 2006.

Up front, I can tell you that the conflict facing Alex and Kate is perfect. Until the very end of the movie, I had no idea of how the two could overcome the barrier of time to be together. I went into the movie figuring that they must be living in some kind of parallel universe situation, where his life track is simply shifted two years earlier than her life track, and the possibility of either one jumping tracks pretty much non-existent.

However, their time distance seemed to be based on some other idea of multiple time dimensions, one I never could quite figure out. Then again, time travel always leaves me befuddled.

I love the idea of time travel romances. I'm always up for the awkwardness of someone who goes back in time and has to figure out how to make due without modern conveniences. I'm not as big on the ones where characters come forward in time as I always figured the shock of life today would kill people use to the past. Either way, it's interesting for me to see how a writer (or director) can pull it off.

But I always get hung up on the whole time/space continuum deal. All of that physics stuff, about what might happen if the same person meets him or herself or if events of the past are changed, how will it affect the future? My mind starts to whirl a bit when it gets going on what seems to me an endless cycle of cause and effect and cause and effect...

Which leads me to my biggest issue of this otherwise intriguing film. Okay - here are those big SPOILERS I warned you about!

In the movie, Kate has a particularly bad day after moving from the lake house to downtown Chicago. She's having lunch with her mother in Daley Plaza and sees a man get hit by a bus. Being a doctor, she rushes to the scene and does her best to save him, but he dies anyway. Her work colleague sees her, despondent, and tells Kate she needs to get out of town to get her mind off things. Kate returns to the lake house, the one place she really felt at home. It's then that she discovers that Alex has left a response to her "please forward my mail" letter and their correspondence - and discovery of their situation - begins.

Fast forward to the end of the movie and the twist I predicted about half way through happens. Come to find out, Alex was the man killed by the bus. He'd been on his way to meet her, having learned via one of her letters that she'd be at Daley Plaza on Valentine's Day, 2006, so when his own time hit that point, he headed there. Kate figures this out and races time to send Alex a message not to come, that he'll be hit by a bus if he does.

Yes, Alex gets the message in time. So, no, he's not killed by the bus.

BUT!!! But...but...but...

If Alex isn't killed by the bus, Kate can't be despondent over having lost a patient whose life she'd tried to save. And her colleague can't see her and suggest that she go someplace she feels good. And Kate can't then go to the lake house and discover Alex's return message. And none of their correspondence would happen. So Kate warning Alex changes what happens, which means everything from that point forward is null and void. The two never know each other. Alex has no reason to be going to Daley Plaza....

See? Circles. And I'm so confused.

But more simply, the entire movie falls apart on that first unraveling. The death of the supposed stranger hit by a bus can't be the thing that inspires Kate to go back to the lake house. A huge plot hole as far as I can figure.

I think the problem comes from having the time distance between the two be only two years. I kept wondering why in the world Kate didn't just do a Google search on the name "Alex Wyler" and find out where he was in her time. In fact, her doing a Google search would have revealed to her that Alex Wyler had been killed by a bus on Valentine's Day, 2006 and she could have warned him much sooner. Eventually - accidentally - she does land in the offices of the architectural firm he created with is brother, and it's then that she discovers that he'd died two years earlier (in her past 2006, her current time now being 2008). She would have learned about his architectural firm much sooner than 2008 if she would have just fired up the old laptop in the first place.

Also, at one point, Alex and Kate do meet. Alex knows who she is, but Kate thinks he's just some stranger since in her timeline, she hasn't even lived at the lake house yet. I kept wondering why in the world Alex didn't just tell her everything or stick to her like glue. But, then again, his doing that would change Kate's future, meaning the two of them might not ever meet in the first place.

My point being, I kept seeing ways the two could meet, but when neither of them followed such a path, I tried to understand what was going on in their world that made it impossible for them to do something so simple. At one point, they do try to pre-arrange a meeting. Alex has to wait two years for it, but they pick a date and place in Kate's present/Alex's future to meet. Alex doesn't show up. Because...wait for it...he's dead. So their meeting once they've learned of each other becomes impossible because Alex was killed the day they "met" via their letters...

Aaughh! My head hurts.

So...all of this to say that the movie was good to a certain degree, but my mind just can't deal with the weirdness of time travel. I'm just not able to suspend my disbelief enough to ignore what seems to me illogicalities in the basic construct of the story.

I will say this. I love Keanu Reeves. But seeing him today makes me realize how time affects us all. He's starting to show his age, which makes me feel a lot better since I've been showing mine for some time now.

My recommendation? If you don't think too hard, this is a sweet movie, with a few tear-enducing moments and a lot of edge-of-the-seating as you wonder how and if these two will ever get together. If your mind can't deviate too far from logical, then you might want to skip it.


Anonymous said...

I know there's always this point in any time travel story where you just have to suspend disbelief and go with it. Generally, I can do that, no problem, because I'm along for the ride. But you know what just pulled me up short and drove me a little crazy for the last half of this one?

The book under the floorboard! Up to that point, I had it pretty well solved. I think that his timeline was 'correcting' hers, if that makes sense, as the movie progressed. That's how he dies in hers but lives in his, and she 'remembers' him from her party two years ago only after he attends in his time. (I could go on, but I'd get dizzy.)

But the book! In her floor! That's where I tripped. And from there, I thought so hard to make that fit, I lost the whole thread of events and couldn't sew it all up before credits rolled.

My fault. Should have just stayed in the passenger side of that ride. And I still loved it.

(Also, I've decided he placed the book there at some point during the construction of her apartment during the year they were 'apart.')

Oh. Last thing. This is wordy, I know. My favorite scene was that party scene. The two of them making this forced, polite, but interested-in-each-other conversation that sounded so authentic. And yet, we know he *knows* and is aching with it.


But for the part with the darned book.


MaryF said...

Yeah, he put the book there during construction. But why couldn't he have put it in the mailbox? And I'm with Lynn - WHY didn't she try to find out where he was in her time???? Sheesh. Would have shortened that interminable restaurant scene. And the circular cause and effect got me, too.

I liked it, but I liked Pirates TONS better!