Rachel McAdams: The Time-Traveller’s Wife
I have a question for you Rachel McAdams: where is your agency?
And, why do you have such a thing for time-travellers?
You’ve played the time-traveller’s lover three times (four if you count Marvel’s Doctor Strange, which for the purposes of this I do not).
What does it all mean? Are you trying to tell us something, or are you desperately trying to carve out this role as your own niche?
For those who don’t know, Rachel Mcadams is a versatile actor. She often plays strong women who are not to be messed with, like Regina George in Mean Girls. The issue is that some 12% of her overall acting work thus far in her 20 year career has been spent playing a time-traveller’s partner.
Something is up, but I have a theory…
Rachel McAdams is a new kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, one that you can control. If she doesn’t quite fit your ideal the first time, you can do it over again and again until you get exactly what you want out of her. And do not fear, even if you’re off gallivanting around space and time, she’ll sit waiting like some long lost puppy dog.
Example One: Inez – Midnight in Paris (2011)
Surprise surprise, a female character in a W**dy Allen film gets the short end of the stick.
Labelled ‘Materialist fiancee’, Rachel McAdams’ character Inez is left at the hotel while Owen Wilson’s Gil goes off on his time travelling adventures, finding himself in the company of great artistes and women from a bygone era of even less agency.
Inez’s lack of love for Paris is presented as annoying and almost the opposite of romantic, and she is (unsurprisingly given the writer) the one in the wrong. Inez is not without fault, she is after all having an affair, but both members of this couple are terrible people. The sad part is that Gil is able to have his fantasies and is literally living his dreams, while she has to stay put in the real world, getting punished for being a woman, I guess.
Example Two: Claire Abshire/De Tamble – The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
The premise of this film is the perfect example of “genre is everything”.
Henry (Eric Bana) first meets Claire (Rachel McAdams) when he is 28 and she is 20, the latter coming into the former’s life via the library he works at – a pretty standard meet-cute.
The twist is that Claire has known Henry since she was 6, not that he knows it yet.
Future Henry (to him, and us, at least) has been visiting Claire on his travels through time, the earliest time period of her life being when she was six years old.
Henry can not control when and where he goes, making this thankfully a little less creepy, but it does raise the question of: did he visit her because she is his wife, or is she his wife because he visited her?
The potential answers raise a lot of issues regarding agency and free will, as is perhaps obvious.
McAdams is given some almost apologetic agency when she is written to turn down Henry’s proposal of marriage (when she is of age, of course), but then she quickly changes her mind and ends up marrying a version of him from the future anyway.
No, it’s not confusing at all.
As is good for any relationship, she then spends the rest of her life waiting for him to leave or for him to come back.
Recommended for you: Wuthering Heights Films Ranked
Example Three: Mary – About Time (2013)
Here we leave the best (sorry worst) for last.
First and foremost, McAdams’ character doesn’t even have a surname and has the same first name as the protagonist’s mum – there are genuinely red flags everywhere.
White, middle to upper class Tim (played by Domhnall Gleeson), meets McAdams’ Mary in one of those restaurants where you can’t see anything – look at how much of a good guy he is for falling for her in a circumstance in which personality is all he has to go on!
Tim has control over time travel for some reason, so the next day he goes back in time to save his friends’ play (god complex much), and thus never actually meets Mary in the way we’ve already been shown.
But what will he do?
Well, remembering that she loves Kate Moss, he goes to an exhibition about her and just… waits.
He literally stalks her.
When she finally shows up, he tells her what he thinks about the exhibition, which is actually what she thinks about it because she told him at the dinner from last night that didn’t actually happen.
From there, Tim manipulates every aspect of their relationship, heading back in time to fix minuscule details that benefit him and forge his desired version of her.
He has sex with her three times in the first night to make sure he does good – each being the first time for her…
What the f*ck, Tim?!
The worst part of the film is that Mary is unaware of Tim’s time travelling ability. Mary is little more than a video game avatar that Tim can control. If she isn’t the perfect woman before, she will be when Tim is finished with her.
Recommended for you: Cinema’s Biggest F**bois
The suitable conclusion to make here would be that Rachel McAdams is a go-to Hollywood name for the quirky and beautiful love interest that audiences can imprint themselves onto fairly easily, thus fulfilling the fantasies of men by being literally anyone they want her to be, while also offering women a figure they can see themselves as due to the character having very few actual characteristics.
Why an actor with such a talent for comedy and drama would be content with these roles is anyone’s guess. Why would you do this Rachel? You were supposed to the best of us!
- 10 Best Films 2021: Annice White - December 29, 2021
- No Ordinary Man (2020) Review – BFI Flare - March 29, 2021
- Rebel Dykes (2021) Review – BFI Flare - March 22, 2021