Stateside Movie Review: The Lake House
The Lake House
This week, courtesy of the Great San Francisco Heatwave of '06, I've come to understand why summer movies can be so god-awful bad and yet pull in millions of dollars: People go to the movies to get away from the oppressive heat. Multiplexes are cool little heavens of distraction, and who gives a damn what you're going to see so long as there's air-conditioning.
Tuesday sultry evening on my way home from work, I stopped off at a little neighbourhood theatre to see whatever happened to have a starting time not too much before I arrived there. It turned out to be The Lake House, starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. As summer movies go, this is neither a box-office success nor a critical one, but I was curious to see it as I like both those actors.
The Lake House is about time being a kind of distance, across which it's impossible to travel. (Or is it?) Given that Reeves and Bullock were previously paired in Speed, perhaps The Lake House is the right-hand panel in a triptych of mathematically inspired movies, v = d/t, and we are yet to see them together in something called At A Distance. But I'm being way too fanciful!
Most critics have found the entire premise of The Lake House way too fanciful and say the film is a poor copy of the Korean movie, Il Mare, on which it is based and which is acknowledged in the fictitious name of the restaurant that has an important role in The Lake House. Il Mare was released in 2000, and the Park Grill restaurant where the TLH restaurant scenes are filmed is at Chicago's Millennium Park. Do you begin to see what a Mobius strip this movie is?
It's only since reading the timeline of TLH at Wikipedia (a spoiler, so don't go there if you intend to see The Lake House) that I realized I saw a completely different movie than the people did who arrived on time. In other words, I entered the Mobius strip at another place, but far from being more confused than other reviewers seem to have been, I was less confused.
Perhaps it's because I didn't give a damn about the timeline or the unlikeliness of the plot. The "magical mailbox" that reviewers refer to isn't magical if you accept the premise of two different people being in the same place at two different times, making one person invisible to the other. In fact, none of the things that made no temporal sense bothered me, but two other things did.
Why, I wondered, did the person living in 2004 not ask if the war in Iraq was over? It's not like a big thing had to be made of it; it's just something you naturally would ask of your penpal if they're living two years ahead of you in this day and age.
And what's with that loose floorboard that coughed up a very dog-eared paperback copy of Jane Austen's Persuasion? I couldn't figure what dwelling place that floorboard was in; other people can't figure out which attic an important box of letters was in because the lake house has no attic. And as for Christopher Plummer talking about the light of a certain location as he lay on his deathbed... was it merely an architectural conceit?
I didn't even recognise Plummer, but I did recognise Shohreh Aghdashloo, the Iranian actress from House of Sand and Fog, who has a small but intensely excellent role as Bullock's confidante. (Following my earlier logic, perhaps Aghdashloo's next role will be in a movie called Third House from the Sun.)
A similarly great mini-performance is given by Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Reeves' brother--he deserves to be given more meaty roles than he's played to date, that's for sure. The Dutch actress Willeke van Ammelrooy is pure rough-cut diamond in her small role as Bullock's hard-working immigrant mother.
The soundtrack features music by Paul McCartney, The Clientele, Nick Drake, Eels, and Carole King, plus an original score by Rachel Portman that teases with a two-note motif from the love theme of Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, playing on the idea that Reeves' and Bullock's stars are literally crossed because the heavens have rotated two earth years between them.
I really loved The Lake House, not the least for its walking tour of Chicago's architecture, but the most because it successfully evokes a psychological state of being by displacing story elements ever so slightly. Anyone who has yearned to go back and live again some moment in time when they lost an opportunity for a real connection with a person they loved but couldn't say the words to will understand this movie.