283 – The Lake House

I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by The Lake House. It’s a romantic drama – a weeper, if you will – that really has no business being all that good, since it does depend on quite a suspension of disbelief. But work it does, thanks in no small part to the powerful chemistry between Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves; even more so when you realize they spend, a la Sleepless in Seattle or You’ve Got Mail, only a small part of the movie in the same scene.

Bullock plays Kate, a lonely doctor in 2006 who communicates, via an apparently supernatural mailbox, with the former resident of the lake house in which she used to live. Reeves plays Alex, a lonely architect in 2004 who lives in that lake house. One thing leads to another, and through the magic of their written words, they begin to fall for each other, much as Tom Hanks fell for Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail before laying eyes on her, or (for you older readers) Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in The Shop Around the Corner. Alex lives in 2004 at the same rate as Kate lives in 2006; each day proceeds apace.

It’s all very poignant, especially when other aspects of the lovers’ lives play out, allowing the various plot points to weave and intersect with each other. If there’s any real complaint to be made, it’s that things make a little too much sense, that when anything happens to either protagonist, it’s answered later on in the movie. There are no loose ends, which – if one were not completely swept up in the awesome, unlikely romance between Alex and Kate – would seem a little too pat and contrived.

Happily, one IS swept up. If you’re a guy, you can’t help feel for Reeves’ character here; he has a stubborn, perfect father who’s always held his children at quite a distance (played by Christopher Plummer, who’s had irascible characters like this for more than fifteen years now), and he has a successful career – though not as illustrious as that of his father, and he’s as emotionally silent, living alone physically and emotionally. Bullock’s Kate is much the same way; for all of her success as a physician, she merely settles for a man to be with for the proverbial rest of her life; she does so because she needs to, not because she wants to.

Bullock hasn’t been this good in some time – yes, much better than she was in Crash, where she was merely annoying. She’s sweet and lovable and everything that caused us to fall for her back in 1995 when she did While You Were Sleeping. She’s also very well lit, by cinematographer Alar Kivilo. Reeves sheds the “whoa” persona – oddly, I totally expected him to recite his trademark when he first reached into the mailbox to find a note from Kate – to turn in a quiet, effective performance that isn’t afraid to show its feelings at times.

The Lake House is a charming, elegant film that really does unabashedly tug at your heart strings. We know we’re being manipulated, but when the result is this entertaining, who can complain?

***

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