The Lake House
Reeves And Bullock Make Homey Romance From Afar
By Cole Smithey
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn ("Proof") performs the repellent task of drafting a Swiss-cheese script for "The Lake House" based on Lee Hyeon-seung's original 2000 South Korean film "Il Mare." While the movie isn't as awful as its dubious trailer portends, it suffers terribly from a truncated narrative puzzle device that connects two lovers from different eras via an old-fashioned mailbox at an improbable lake house. From the quaint but unique house that his father (Christopher Plummer) built, journeyman architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) finds himself in a love letter romance across time with Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock). The time-cursed lovers exist two years apart. Yet they are able to communicate as if they were carrying on an immediate interactive conversation. Split-screen visuals frequently veer the drama into comedy. Still, Reeves and Bullock do a commendable job of masking some of the plot's glaring potholes with their intrinsic onscreen chemistry.
Director Alejandro Agresti ("Valentin") will not be accused of being a visionary director. In a movie where the main character is a house, Agresti never takes the time to properly introduce the viewer to its finite interior spaces that hover ten feet above the water. Designed and built specifically for the film, the house is an enchanting piece of iron, glass, and wood architecture. It's a Swiss cross design with all-glass walls surrounding a center area occupied by a large tree that links the interiors of its four equal-sized rooms. The center roof opens to allow sun and air to bathe the home's interior tree. Yet the director makes an incalculable mistake by constantly returning to an attic that clearly doesn't exist. Agresti is too selfish with his camera to disclose intimate details of the home's interior spaces. It's in keeping with this refusal of logic that the filmmaker obscures the love story at the heart of the film.
Alex is a dog-loving architect who functions as a contractor boss at a suburban building site where his crew completes a 40-home community. He's been out of touch with his brother Henry (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and his father Simon because Alex has been unsuccessfully attempting to either "forgive or forget" his father for unspoken sins. The subplots here, as with Bullock's character Kate, feel cobbled together. None of the subplots shed light on the intangible romantic connection between Alex and Kate.
Early in the story, Kate attempts to save the life of a man struck by a bus across the street from Chicago's Daly Plaza where she eats her lunch. Although we only see him from the back, we realize this is Alex. We sense that his spirit invades Kate's body. The story flips back on itself. Alex, circa 2004, moves into the house after Kate moved out, circa 2006. He lived there before her, as witnessed by his dog's paw prints on the entrance deck. This kind of irritating flip-flop syllogism plagues the story in which Alex and Kate attempt to schedule a 2006 meeting at the homage-titled restaurant "Il Mare."
"The Lake House" finally arrives at a certain romantic inertia in spite of its overstrained narrative puzzlement. But it wraps up before the long-awaited resolution can take hold. There's no coda. The impact of the movie rests on one scene between Alex and Kate where they meet and dance together at a birthday party thrown for Kate by her former fiancé Morgan (Dylan Walsh). The couple strike up a secluded conversation. They relate on a romantic level that leads to a gentle dance and a meaningful kiss. It's the one time their relationship feels real.
Rated PG. 108 mins. (C-) (Two Stars - out of five/no halves)
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