The Lake House
2006Director: Alejandro Agresti
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Shohreh Aghdashloo
t some mysterious juncture, somewhere near what might conventionally be called the “middle” of a film less interminable than The Lake House, pensive architect Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) muses to his brother that their father’s lake house is about control rather than connection. The structure in question is a beautiful menagerie poised on stilts that meet majestic Lake Michigan at their feet. It’s as attractive as it is architecturally impractical, the perfect eponymous metaphor for a film that also misses connection completely—emotional, logical, or otherwise.
To be fair, those who enter the theater with a basic grasp of the film’s central concept should already expect the illogical. Alex lives in 2004, while the always-loveable Sandra Bullock’s lonely Dr. Kate Forster prefers to reside in the same house two years later. As Keanu Reeves time-travel vehicles go, this one can’t hope to touch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Still, there’s a sweet love story here that develops between the two as a result of an unexplained tear in the space-time continuum localized to the would-be-lovers’ mailbox.
A series of letters progress, coaxing the couple into a dreamy sci-fi romance. And while the time gap might be left weirdly unexplained, the idea certainly has potential to work as gleeful nonsense on such terms. It’s consequently frustrating that the screenplay doesn’t obey its own logical parameters. After all, the most basic tenet of all filmic inquiries into the nature of time travel is that communication with the past either changes the present or has already changed the present such that interaction with the past was always inevitable. The Lake House has it both ways, preferring to let its own brand of quantum physics suit the particular scene. Once the viewer sits up in quizzical concentration on that point, the film quickly unravels. Exactly how often is Kate driving from the heart of Chicago up to the lake house that their conversations seem to progress more by haunted instant messenger than a mailbox? Why exactly is it so easy to accept that the mysterious love letters come from the past and not her neighbor’s kid pulling a joke? And why, of all things, does she insist on such an unflattering haircut for the better part of two years?
Thus, logic, much like a stealthy heckler who screams at the screen in a quiet theater, becomes the primary hindrance to the movie’s magic. Yet logic certainly has its assistants. Chiefly, and inexplicably, among them, the performances in The Lake House fail to generate the kind of emotional appeal the film so desperately needs to work. Bullock is uncharacteristically lifeless, Reeves characteristically so. Their collective affability and modicum of chemistry allow both to escape unscathed, but it’s not enough for the film. There’s spark here, but no fire.
It’s also disappointing to see Lynn Colllins (a sly Portia in The Merchant of Venice) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (almost an Oscar winner for House of Sand and Fog), actors of proven caliber, reduced to playing characters built entirely around single adjectives (respectively: “vacant” and “sympathetic,” in case you were wondering). But when even the principals can’t master multi-dimension, it’s less conspicuously lamentable in the supporting players.
Based on a Korean film that I can’t imagine was any worse, and featuring precisely zero exploding buses, The Lake House has little to offer its audience beyond dewy romance. It makes scant narrative sense, opting to cover its character-motivation gaps with weepy music and moody close-ups. In a sense, though, that’s all the film purports to offer: perfectly empty, wistful filmmaking. Its success on this front is either a credit to the filmmakers or a testament to their lack of ambition. Either way, the film is blithely comatose—a state audiences might like to slip into before seeing it.
The Lake House is playing in theatres across the country.
By: Amanda Andrade
Published on: 2006-07-12