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Sunday, June 18, 2006

The Lake House

This past weekend I was one of the first to see the re-teaming of Sandra Bullock (Crash) and Keanu Reeves (A Scanner Darkly) in The Lake House, a romantic drama with a definite twist to it that is now playing at the Essex Cinemas. As soon as I emerged at the end of the movie, staff at the theater were anxious to know what I thought as the buzz on the film has been strong and I’m sure a lot of people, remembering Reeves and Bullock in Speed, are expecting another fast-paced action adventure that will recapture the magic they shared in that flick from a dozen years ago.

My biggest concern going in was that it may have been too late for that chemistry to percolate again. As a matter of fact, almost as if she was reading my mind, Bullock’s character, Dr. Kate Forster, speaks in that vein when she addresses her own concerns about her relationship with Reeves’ Alex Wyler by noting that sometimes time is the biggest barrier, and that sometimes too much time apart can ruin everything. Of course, in her case, the problem is a lot more complicated than whether audiences will remember how well she clicked with Keanu in the old days since this is a movie about quirks in the fabric of time itself. I hesitate to call it a “time travel” movie as many in the media have because nobody has a machine that takes them to and from the past or future. Nobody goes anywhere. Just their mail does.

Explaining the appeal of The Lake House is about as easy as explaining the allure of George Dubya to a die-hard Democrat or Hillary Clinton to a staunch Republican. It just ain’t gonna happen. The Lake House is partisan politics all the way. You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it, or, like a lot of people when it comes to politics, you’ll end up scratching your head and thinking you must have missed something along the way.

I’ll let you know right now that I loved The Lake House. I loved the romance of the two main characters, I loved the pacing of the story, and I most of all loved Sandra Bullock, who I always adore in everything she does. There is just something so profoundly vulnerable and honest in her work that I always believe everything she tells me even though I know that as an actress it is her job to lie to me convincingly, and she does it so darned well.

In The Lake House she plays the former tenant of a fabulous house on a lake (duh!) outside of Chicago, where she works as a doctor in a large and chaotic hospital. The house is entirely made of glass which makes for a unique and beautiful structure, albeit less than practical, especially for someone like me who loves to throw stones.

After relocating to a place in the city closer to her work she sends a generic letter to the next tenant of the house asking that any mail that might come addressed to her be forwarded to her new address. The reply she gets seems oddly off, and she writes again noting to the sender that he is a bit behind the times as he is still dating his correspondence ‘2004’ instead of ‘2006’.

From there progresses the beginning of a growing friendship and amazement as the two realize that somehow the Alex who is in 2004 was the tenant before Kate came to the house and they are conversing across the span of time.

For Alex, the advantage is that he can find the 2004 Kate and get to see her and know her in his time period although she will have no idea who he is at that point, while the advantage for Kate is that she seemingly does not have to wait two years to "catch up" as Alex does before they can be together. She can pick a place and time as early as that evening and it will mean a long wait for him but only a matter of hours for her. Easy, right? Don’t be ridiculous.

A lot can happen in that two years that will require Kleenex and possibly a Midol if you’ve got one. I heard sniffling in the theater and not just from one corner but from all over the room as an obvious plot point made early on comes back to make WAY more significant importance to the story than it did at the time it happened at the beginning of our tale. This shock from the audience caught me off guard because when the original incident happened I thought it was so blatantly a clue to what was going to happen later that it was about as subtle as getting hit by a bus, but apparently many in the audience were either in a sugar coma from shoveling in their SweetTarts or they were preoccupied wondering (like me) if Keanu had become a Botox addict or just was the victim of way too much cosmetic surgery of late and so they were not paying attention to the actual story. If they had, as I was able, to multitask by keeping track of the plot, my snacks, and the condition of the actors’ faces (I vote for Botox by the way), they would have seen what was coming.

Even though it has its’ obvious moments, The Lake House is a fine departure from the usual summer fare of idiotic superheroes and things that go kerblam!!! in the night. I love my popcorn big budget crapola summer blockbusters as much as anyone, but once in a while it’s nice to have something cool and refreshing as a change of pace, and The Lake House fits that bill quite well. It’s like a tall pitcher of lemonade’s being served up at the Essex Cinemas, along with the air conditioning. Together, they make for a perfect two hour respite from the heat.

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