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Jun 29,2006
The Screen Savor: This 'Lake' is Bogged Down
by Kimberly Gadette

Movie Review of "The Lake House"         

 "The Lake House"
 Directed by Alejandro Agresti
 Screenplay by David Auburn
 Cast: Sandra Bullock, Keanu Reeves, Shoreh Aghdashloo, Christopher Plummer
 Rated: PG
 Running Time: 105 minutes
 Grading: C plus

"Lake:  A large, inland body of fresh or salty standing water. Over time lakes may evaporate or fill up with sediment, leaving a bog or swamp in their place."

Like a lake, this is a film of a slow-moving, picturesque quality.  The good news:  There is no obnoxious soundtrack that cues the audience how it's supposed to feel, no quick cuts to artificially force excitement.  The bad news:  Like a lake, it's standing still.  Much … too … still.

A romance/time travel piece, Dr. Kate (Sandra Bullock) falls in love with the invisible man in her mailbox, builder and sometime architect Alex (Keanu Reeves).  He's a great guy, sensitive, caring … and except for that pesky time problem of living exactly two years behind her, everything would be perfect.  Like any earnest couple, they try to make it work:  He plants a scrawny sapling for her that grows into a magnificent tree two-years-later-overnight; he scrawls graffiti for her on a side of a building that magically stays intact for her two-years-later discovery; he hides a treasure that she finds under a two-years-old floorboard without a clue.  Yet he stands her up at a fancy restaurant, the lout.  Does he even give her the courtesy of a phone call?  Oh, sure, he's got that trapped-in-time excuse, but enough is enough.

One of the strangest plot problems is that though they're living two years apart, they share a dog who effortlessly leaps the time-space continuum without so much as gaining a pound from all those double feedings.  Maybe it's all that time-leaping that's keeping Doggy so svelte.

Bullock describes director Alejandro Agresti as a "painter."  Nice, but I came to the cinema, not the Louvre.  Who wants to watch paint dry?  Though Agresti composes his scenes beautifully, by its very definition a "moving picture" can't be static.  The fact that there is such a dearth of forward tension makes this love story drag to a virtual halt.  The conceit of a two-year time lapse is interesting, but the audience shouldn't have to feel as if they are also waiting two years between the time one character speaks and the other responds.

As for our lovebirds:  Without his Neo/Matrix shades, long leather dress and impossible slow-mo' jumps, Keanu is far more "Bill & Ted" than Clark & Gable.  But Sandra Bullock shines.  It's a pleasure to become reacquainted with the actress America fell in love with during 1994's "Speed."  Her every expression exudes worlds of feeling from her Dr. Kate, whether she's falling in love with the city of Chicago, the mysterious Alex, or regrettably falling out of love with her flesh-and-blood beau.  If it weren't for the depth and charisma of this actress, "Lake House" would have sunk from still life to lifeless.

A fine performance was also turned in by Shohreh Aghdashloo as Kate's confidante doctor friend, giving the piece a sorely-needed levity with such lines as "He must write one hell of a letter" and, as a reaction to Kate mentioning her long distance affair, "Christ, he's in prison, isn't he?"

If a movie plot attempts time-travel, then the audience has to be satisfied that everything ultimately fits in place.  If "The Lake House" had been made as a fantasy, there might have been a willing suspension of disbelief.  A leap of faith, as it were.  But since screenwriter Auburn gives us specific dates and hard facts, this leap of faith would entail oh, say, jumping over Lake Superior.  Maybe that time-traveling Doggy can do it.  But as for the audience?  Utterly swamped.

Grading this movie on the curve of the Deschutes River:  C plus

1960 times read

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Did you enjoy this article? Rating: 3.71Rating: 3.71Rating: 3.71Rating: 3.71 (total 17 votes)

  • Alas. One drawback of the internet. Even the less intellectually inclined can state their opinion. This is one of the most beautiful films I have ever seen. It's obvious that this reviewer lost her heart and soul somewhere in cup of instant noodles. Assigning logic to an obvious fantasy grounded in obvious real-life struggles and desires is simply a ridiculous route to take. No wonder she never got there. You doubt that a book would stay put under a floor for two years? Maybe if it were 200. Laugh! Graffiti remains, uncrumbled or washed for two years? Laugh! The tree scene... aaahhhh let's not fall into the beauty of the act or the music or the rain or the silly romantic indulgence of planting a tree, my god, a tree, instead of sending a box of condoms through the mailbox with a markered "I Heart U" on the side and some breath mints. Let's wonder why it grew so fast! The dog, my dear, does not travel through time or leap the continuum or get double-fed. Nonsense. Alex owns her first. She ends up with Kate when Alex gives her to Morgan. Ho hum. He stood her up at Il Mare? Gee I wonder why? Death is a pretty good excuse in my book. The lout. Ha! Keanu's Alex is the kind of man that *smart* women want. One who heeds the interior, bubbling desire men are known to radically suppress for a real bond with a woman, something deeper, like a lake, instead of skimming the surface in a speedo. This film brags two of the most romantic scenes on film today. People in the theater were crying their eyes out, sniffling, rubbing their noses, twisting in their seats. Did you watch it alone Ms. Gadette? Between phone calls and emailing? When Alex breaks down after the death of his father, which I'm sure you just forgot to mention when you were putting Keanu's acting in short pants, women *and* men "let it out" -- whatever they had inside that just like the man on the screen. This couple has no idea what they're doing! If they did it would ring false. We don't have all the answers in real life, Ms. Gadette. That is false advertising in too many movies. Nearly all of them in fact. We don't use our guts enough. We don't listen to our hearts or inner voices, the ones we quashed when we grew bigger. The ones that kept us from falling when we walked along the fence top. If we did, if we could do it more now, we might be happier. Agresti's direction is oh so *light*, in counter to your impatient and empty metaphor. Oh so light. Butterflies dancing. Drawing back and forth, gliding in circles, hugging and distancing your eyes and your mind alternately like lovemaking. Sandra Bullock is luminous. She is fruit-sweet and wine-warm and cheese filling. Keanu Reeves is not a patented, sweeping knight out of a cartoon. He is a man who wants to love, does love, learns from his mistakes, reaches out, keeps his shirt on, keeps his promises and shows us what to look for. God help us to find it, eh? Your inability to grasp not only the plot but the heart and soul of this story is a depressing and woeful testament to the loss of everything that is soft and faithful in women. The sad loss of knowing what to look for in a permanent, transcendent relationship. I hope you sit down and watch it again, openly.
  • (Posted on November 6, 2006, 11:23 am paige)

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