Saturday, April 7, 2012

Okay, It's About Time For A Worthwhile Romantic Story: The Lake House Fits The Bill!

The Good: Adequate acting, Excellent concept, Direction that keeps the flow good, Kate is a good character
The Bad: Somewhat derivative, Moments of acting
The Basics: In a decent romance-across-time, Alex and Kate exchange letters while sharing a house in two different time periods. Charming and fun.

It's a good time to have a decent romantic time travel story. Having recently read - and completely loved - The Time-Traveler's Wife (reviewed here!), when I learned of The Lake House, I decided it might be a nice piece to sit and watch. The truth is, I was not exactly prepared for it to be as good as it was. As the public opens up to varied stories that stretch the imagination and the limits of suspension of disbelief, those intrigued by time travel have the chance to create new stories that push the envelope of reality.

Alex Wyler lives in a house on a small lake in 2004 with a very thin dog. In 2006, Kate Forster takes up residence in the lake house and finds a note from Alex, essentially asking her to forward the mail and noting a few eccentricities about the house. When Kate mails something in the mailbox to Alex, the letter materialized in 2004 and the two begin to correspond through time and develop a relationship without actually meeting one another.

What makes The Lake House work (outside the wise choice writer David Auburn made in not naming the film The Mailbox or even worse Alex and Kate's Adventure With The Time-traveling Dog Via The Mailbox Of Wonder) is two basic things. The first is that, unlike the novel The Time-Traveler's Wife which is very attentive to temporal mechanics, time is fluid in The Lake House and when the characters and audience accept the basic premise of the movie, the movie works. So, for example, the temporal corridor (my words, it never comes up in the movie) operates from a starting point, so while Alex and Kate exchange letters, the letters do not translate outside real-time, so when Kate gets busy for a week and cannot write to Alex in that time, a week passes before Alex gets his next letter. Events are not treated as inevitable or immutable in The Lake House and it offers a nice, distinct difference between this movie and the substantial book.

The second thing that makes The Lake House work is that the mechanics of the temporal anomaly are never explored. The movie does not belabor the premise, merely uses it to tell the story that it is telling. As a result, the viewer does not have to wonder about how things are happening and when the protagonists decide to go along with this reality, the viewer feels comfortably compelled to go along.

Based on the movie Siworae, The Lake House was adapted by David Auburn and directed by Alejandro Agresti. Agresti does excellent directoral work here, keeping the film flowing through a positive visual sense of movement. The pacing of the movie is excellent and it keeps the viewer engaged. This is a story that is laid out well for the viewer and it works in part because the director is doing his job well.

The characters in The Lake House are fairly substantial, at least Kate. Kate Forster has an ex-beau (Morgan), a mother, a boss, a new job, an entire and rich backstory. She is a doctor at a new hospital and when she moves into the lake house, she is just getting her bearings and she is bringing with her a lot of issues and past. She is very well-defined for a movie that is only 105 minutes long.

Conversely, Alex is not so well-defined. He has father issues and a brother who is working in the same field (all three are architects). But his girlfriend feels like an accessory and there is no real chemistry between the two. As a result, Alex is less well-defined.

However, the character problems with Alex support the acting of Keanu Reeves quite well. Reeves is a somewhat awkward actor, with little onscreen charisma. In short, the role of Neo in The Matrix (reviewed here!) was perfectly cast with Reeves; he was a stiff, awkward man on the verge of godhood. Movies where Reeves is in a role that requires a lot of smiling, joy and easy human interaction often end up with Reeves falling flat with his performance. The Lake House seems to use that by making his character a believable loner, whose reaching out to Kate through letters might seem more natural than with a more socially-at-ease performer (who the viewer might watch and say "Why does this person need this social outlet when they seem to have no problem making contact with people in the real world?").

Christopher Plummer pops up throughout The Lake House as Alex's father Simon and I note him because he is one of my favorite actors and here he is aloof and wonderful as Simon. I've never seen quite this performance from Plummer before and I liked every scene he was in.

Much of the movie rests on the acting talents of Sandra Bullock (she deserved top billing in this movie, which went to Reeves instead). Bullock is wonderful in this role, playing Kate with a sense of longing that is far more understated than expressed. Bullock successfully emotes with her voice-overs and her eyes. The climax of the movie hinges on her ability to emote and she does it with flair and realism that make the whole piece worth watching.

This is not high drama, but it's a clever concept well-executed and I found myself pleasantly surprised. This is a great movie for a weekend when you are curled up with your partner and want to just sit and watch something together.

For other works with Lynn Collins, be sure to visit my reviews of:
John Carter
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
True Blood - Season One


For other film reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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