Dir: Alejandro Agresti. US.2006. 108mins.
Cateringfaithfully to its core audience, The Lake House is a grownup romantic drama withhigh-gloss production values and a reliably tear-jerking storyline. Itssophisticated air and fairy-tale manner will play perfectly with adult womenwho won't quibble about the mediocre performances and glaring logic problems.
This remake ofthe 2000 South Korean film Il Mare, opening June 16 in the US before expanding into internationalterritories, is that rare mainstream summer film aimed squarely at women andshould therefore face little competition. With popular stars Keanu Reeves andSandra Bullock attracting the older date crowd, Warner Bros. would love tomatch the success of another counter-programming summer romance, 2004's TheNotebook, which grossed$81m domestically. Foreign territories also look promising, considering thatReeves' last two romantic dramas (Something's Gotta Give and Sweet November) both performed better internationallythan at home. Ancillary markets should deliver solid results as well.
Harried, lonelyDr Kate Forster (Bullock) begins corresponding by mail with architect AlexWyler (Reeves), the new tenant of her old residence, a beautiful Chicago lakehouse. But soon they are shocked to discover that they are separated by time- Wyler is sending his letters from 2004 while she lives in the presentday. This fantastical situation grows complicated as they fall in love despitehaving no way of physically connecting.
In his Hollywooddebut, Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti (Valentin) approaches this romantic fantasy in arealistic manner, examining the inherent difficulties in the couple's temporaldistance. Aided by Rachel Portman's sombre score and Alar Kivilo's richcinematography, Agresti lushly captures the isolation of upper-class urban lifewhere careers and cynicism take the place of love and contentment.
But while theproduction confidently maintains an aura of mature sophistication -Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn (Proof) peppers his screenplay with literaryreferences and monologues about architecturaltheories - The Lake House'sserious style both mutes the film's potentially magical elements and heightensthe absurdity of the narrative's conceit.
That muting is strongly feltin the lead performances. Reunited for the first time since the action film Speed, Reeves and Bullock exhibit an empatheticwistfulness, but Agresti wraps the proceedings so tightly in tastefulness thathis lovers fail to kindle sufficient romantic sparks.
However, the story's wobbly"parallel time frames" gimmick is even more problematic. Because Alex istrapped back in 2004, his only hope of seeing Kate is to get in contact withher in his time period, which he does several times. But The Lake House never bothers to explain how Alex is able to interactwith Kate's 2004 existence without affecting her present-day reality.
By playing so fast and loosewith logic, the film fails to establish any sort of ground rules for itsfantasy elements. (Indeed, the film's weepy finale depends entirely on a twistthat defies the rules of space and time.) While Argesti envisions The LakeHouse as an intelligent romance forcultivated adults, his narrative strains credibility, forcing his audience toblindly dismiss the logic problems as part of the film's magical, romantictone. Those simply looking for a happy ending and a good cry probably won'thave any trouble with that proposition, but the discriminating viewer will noticethat this particular house is very pretty on the outside but empty inside.
Vertigo Entertainment, Warner Bros, Village Roadshow Pictures
Warner Bros, Village Roadshow
Mary McLaglen, Erwin Stoff, Dana Goldberg, Bruce Berman
Doug Davison, Roy Lee
David Auburn, based on the motion picture Il Mare produced by Sidus
Lynzee Klingman, Alejandro Brodersohn
Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Dylan Walsh, ShohrehAghdashloo, Christopher Plummer