Friday, June 16, 2006
Unlike such recent Hollywood remakes of Asian films asThe Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water
andPulse, The Lake House
turns to romantic rather than horror material. The film is a remake of the Lee Hyun-seung South Korean filmIl Mare
. Both films layer time bending plots over their romances. InThe Lake House
, Sandra Bullock plays Kate Forster, a doctor who is leaving a stunning glass lake house to go work at a big Chicago hospital. As she leaves, she puts a letter in the mailbox asking the next tenant to forward any mail that might end up at her old address. Keanu Reeves is an architect named Alex Wyler who moves into the house. He sends off a reply saying that he'd be happy to forward her mail but by the way, she's got the date wrong, it's not 2006, it's 2004. After a series of odd events, the two come to realize that they are communicating across time. As they correspond, they slowly fall in love and make attempts to somehow hook up. They use the mailbox to exchange not only letters but items as well. Alex is able to return a lost item to Kate, and Kate is able to send Alex a copy of his father?s memoir that is yet to be published in 2004. But the big question is, will these two ever be able to physically meet and turn this pen pal relationship into a real one?
At the packed preview screening, the audience seemed to react like Pavlov's dog to each contrived turn the film took. They laughed at each cute bit of business Sandra Bullock engaged in be it playing chess with her dog to overreacting to the magical mailbox; they swooned at Keanu Reeves; and they pulled out Kleenex at all the appropriate tear-jerking moments. Maybe the crowd was made up only of Bullock and Reeves fans just primed for their onscreen reunion, or maybe the fact that the air conditioning was'?t working just made people a little loopy and unable to think clearly. But from where I sat, my mouth just dropped open in stunned amazement at how lame this romantic remake turned out to be.
The Hollywood remakes of Asian horror - while not surpassing their originals - have so far all been successful genre films with some level of effectiveness. But The Lake House , as with the recent Shall We Dance (a remake of a Japanese love story), have both failed miserably in capturing anything of their source material. In the case of The Lake House , it tries to meld Somewhere In Time with You've Got Mail in an attempt to make a romantic comedy and a romantic melodrama rolled into one. And unlike its source film, it painfully contrives a highly unbelievable "Hollywood" ending from its silly and twisted plot. The South Korean film seemed content to deliver a bittersweet love story about isolated people learning to cope with loss. But The Lake House plods along with sitcom sensibilities, going for a cheap laugh or strained emotion. Argentinean director Alejandro Agresti thinks it's clever to have the characters seem to be sitting next to each other on park benches or in a cafeteria but really being separated by years. The cute set ups allow for the characters to engage in banter as if they were in an online chat room bouncing comments off each other rather than writing letters that take time to be delivered and replied to.
To make matters worse, Bullock and Reeves display no onscreen chemistry. This is a chilly film and I'm not just referring to the Chicago winters. The two stars were enjoyable in a brainless sort of way in Speed , but that was an action film that moved at a fast clip and required no real acting or emotion. Here, in the long, dull stretches of The Lake House , these two performers prove as inviting as the cold, barren glass house they inhabit.
The Lake House (rated PG) is a lame entry in the romance category. Go see the original Korean film instead.
Companion viewing: Il Mare, Somewhere in Time, Time After Time, 84 Charring Cross Road -----