The Lake House (2006) / Romance-Fantasy
MPAA Rated: PG for some language
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Shohreh Agdashloo, Christopher Plummer, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Director: Alejandro Agresti
Screenplay: David Auburn (based on the Korean film, Il Mare (aka Siworae))
Chicago doctor Kate Forster (Bullock, Miss Congeniality 2) used to live in a quaint home, literally on top of a lake in 2006. Alex Wyler (Reeves, Constantine) is an architect living in the same house, except that he does so back in 2004. Through a fluke, they begin corresponding to one another through the mailbox in front of their home, finding each other interesting enough to continue to write to one another, and even become a bit more than casual pen pals. Other than never meeting one another, problems begin to arise when they think about why they haven't met yet.
This whimsical, highly illogical romance may please those that just want to see another pair of would-be lovers struggle through time and space to find one another, but those unimpressed by the chemistry of the two leads (what little there is; they barely appear onscreen together) will find this a bit of an endurance test, as the loopholes and frustration in trying to understand the character motivations lead to a mystifying experience for hearts not so easily melted. Perhaps in the Korean film, distributed around the world as Il Mare, this premise might have flown to greater success, but in the familiar environs of down-to-earth Chicago, the mundane aspects of the surroundings don't exactly lend as well to enchanting, soul-searching fantasies that lead by emotion. Good-looking leads help, as well as some nice cinematography, but the leaden plotting and saccharine delivery keep this one from ever soaring to the intended heights it seeks.
Paradoxes of time are often hard to deal with when you think about them too much, and that is precisely what is wrong with this premise, as the two characters are too temporally close to not think that there were at least a hundred different ways they could have gotten to know one another, or at the very least, have found out much more than they ever end up doing. Perhaps different eras would have been more appropriate, although that has also been done before (one example I can think of is 1998's made-for-TV movie, The Love Letter, which had a man corresponding with a woman from the Civil War era through letters left in his antique desk). It's insane that Reeves' character doesn't make more of an effort into trying to win over Bullock's in his 2004, especially when he has all of the written proof of their correspondence in her very own handwriting. It's equally strange that Bullock wouldn't make every effort to seek out why Reeves didn't try to contact her in a much more serious fashion; with two years of knowing of each other, you'd think they would have every opportunity to do something more. At least do an internet search for crissakes -- the guy is a successful architect in one of the world's biggest cities!
I'd love to say that the film works its own sort of magic, enough to overcome the implausible premise, but I'm afraid I cannot. The constant questions that arise in the mind as to why these two people who actually do co-exist are a continuous distraction, and the only thing holding one's interest is whether or not the ending of the film they've been expecting actually comes to pass or if they throw in a twist. The twist occurs for the most part, but for some odd reason there is another postponement in time, which will lead one to conclude that this is a story where the screenwriter (Auburn, Proof) and director (Agresti, Valentin) never really gave a great deal of thought as to why their wafer-thin characters actually do anything remotely realistic, merely puppets meant to push along shallow themes and contrived story turns that can only please audiences that like to think equally shallow. At no time do they even bother to explain how such a time-shift could ever exist in a mailbox and why, perhaps not caring enough, thinking (quite rightly in this case) that we wouldn't as well. The Lake House proves to be about as deep as the water it's built on.
©2006 Vince Leo