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The Lake House (Mark's Take)

01/07/2006. Contributed by Mark R. Leeper

Buy The Lake House in the USA - or Buy The Lake House in the UK

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In this movie, says Mark, A man from 2004 and a woman from 2006 are in mail communication through a magic mailbox outside the same house that each is living in his or her respective year. It could be a good idea, but the fantasy is leaden and refuses to play by the rules it itself set up. So it is not very good as a fantasy and it really does not work as a romance.

Alejandro Agresti directs a screenplay by David Auburn based on the Korean film SIWORAE (IL MARE).

Rating: +0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10.

In vampire films there are certain rules defining a vampire's powers and limitations. They can vary from one vampire story to the next, but within a single story the rules must be logical and consistent. Rules are very important in a fantasy film. A world in which just about anything can happen is a world in which nothing that happens much matters. It is hard to have much of an emotional investment in such a fantasy world. It has been noted that fantasy has to make more sense than the real world does. In writing a fantasy story the writer has to know at the beginning what the rules are of this world. It is evident that that was not done with THE LAKE HOUSE and the film suffers badly as a result.

Sandra Bullock plays Chicago doctor Kate Forster who is moving out of the title house in 2006 and leaves mail for the next tenant in the mailbox. (Ironically, no postman ever seems to come near this mailbox in the whole course of the film.) Keanu Reeves plays Alex Wyler, a successful architect who is moving into the house and finds the note. The strange thing is that he is moving in 2004. The mailbox seems to be a sort of time portal.

He is at first confused because he knows there had been no previous tenant. In addition, his mail seems to be coming from someone who does not know the correct date. After they meet cute (but weird) they come to be attracted to each other through their correspondence, but can they actually meet? There is a side question of whether Alex can reconcile with his cold and distant father, a world-famous architect.

My problem with the script is that even if you accept the premise much of what you see does not make sense. They seem to have conversations "in real time." Kate and Alex seem to have rapid back and forth conversations, in one case during a tour of Chicago architecture. Much of the tension comes from the question of whether the two can find each other in spite of the two-year delay. It is hard to believe that in this age of easy information a successful doctor cannot find out about a successful architect from the same city.

Alex also never seems to realize the possibilities and value of getting information from two years in the future. Kate never tells him about the Indian Ocean Tsunami, for example. Nor does she mention Hurricane Katrina. It is a little hard to believe she would not mention events that important. Even as a doctor pledged to same lives she just says dreamily that the world has not changed much in those two years, but of course it had. Having her so disinterested makes her sound very self-absorbed.

Other little things bothered me about the plot. Probably no restaurant would take a reservation two years in advance. The plot has a lot of coincidence and frequently telegraphs upcoming surprises. The screenplay is by David Auburn, the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright of PROOF (and who my family assures me is a remote cousin of mine).

This film is being called a reunion of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock who co-starred in SPEED. Given that they have only a few scenes together they do not have much time for screen chemistry. Even when they are together Reeves seems a little remote. Shohreh Aghdashloo, best known for her Oscar-nominated role in THE HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG, is notable as a co-worker of Kate's.

THE LAKE HOUSE is nice and soft and romantic but has no logic or even intelligence whatsoever. I rate it a 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

Two more minor complaints: Hollywood scriptwriters seem to know about only a handful of professions. Here the main characters are an architect and a doctor. Movies have lots of doctors and quite a few architects. How about an asphalt layer or an airplane baggage handler? Most professions never show up in films.

Also Kate lives at 1620 Racine. Why are so many film addresses 16-something? In one week I saw three addresses that were in some 1600 block. Sean Connery in the UNTOUCHABLES lived at 1634 Racine, just a few doors down from where Kate would supposedly live.

Mark R. Leeper

Copyright 2006 Mark R. Leeper

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