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The Lake House
Touching, moving (some critics said silly) romance between two outstanding actors fighting with complex timeshifts and a fairly ropey script.
But Keanu Reeves is better than he was in Much Ado (he struggled with the intricacies of the language) and Speed; he’s back to the quality of Devil’s Advocate, where he played a complex and believable character. Sandra Bullock has lost some of the quirky appeal of The Net and Demolition Man, but retains much of the depth of characterisation we observed in Crash.
The story involves a lonely Doctor (Bullock) and the architect son (Reeves) of an architect (Christopher Plummer), who live in the same house, designed by the older archtect to be disconnected from its environment. Separated by time, they correspond through the external mailbox, and discover a love for each other they fear may never be able to be realised.
But the dog and the mailbox connect them time and time again, and they meet and explore their friendship at a party in a superb one-take scene of three-and-a-half minutes of wall-to-wall acting, which is theatrical and moving and brilliant. Hats off to the director for insisting on this and making it not only work superbly, but for the static camera which emphasised the drama of the developing relationship. Fortunately, the script assists in the reality of this sequence, being touching, amusing, tender and realistic, despite the hand-wringing and the conversation about Jane Austin and the theme of waiting.
It’s rarely a good idea to have characters cry on-screen, but both pull it off superbly, and the sense of hopelessness and loss is very strong. I was tugged along by the emotional resonances of this film; the story is twaddle, silly and fantastical, but it gives both characters time to fall in love. In another story they would be in bed by the start of the second reel and miss out on all the shyness, caution, laughter, hope, dreaming, planning and disappointment with which these two have to cope.
This is probably what engages best with me in this piece. Their affection and mutual dependence grows and remains non-physical, allowing the depth of emotion time to develop beyond intrigue or self-justified gratification (eg 'We've all got needs and drives, haven't we?')and the viewer is eager for them to find a way to be together. The concept of soul-mate might be relevent here, too.
Do they get together? Can they? Ah, but this is Hollywood, you know, so have a guess. See my review of the French movie L'Appartement for a counter-comment.
I loved it; some critics were too focused on the silly premise; but look at the acting. Consider Sideways and the love story in that (don’t worry about the attempts at comedy or indeed any of the other characters, just consider Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen nearly connecting over glasses of fine wine and erudite discussion).
If you thought Bullock’s best movie so far was Speed 2, then avoid this – you won’t be impressed. But if you loved Sideways, then similarly avoid this because the script is dangerously tatty and forgettable (except the scenes involving the girl at the bookings table in the posh restaurant). But if you think Bullock looks great and you can put up with her twang, and you think Reeves is a better actor than most of his parts to date have demonstrated, then give it a go. You’ll be disappointed, but moved and intrigued and drawn in.
Go to the Lake House website and leave an email to yourself in the future. It’s fun, it’s crazy, it’s unlikely to mean much, it’s unwise to aim too far ahead. But it just might keep you on track if you have plans you think might not become reality…
Additional note: it worked for me. I set myself a goal and the Lake House email wrote back to check up on me 18 months later. It's the closest thing to accountability some might ever discover.