Lynne Meadow, David Auburn and Barry Grove - Disney On Ice presents 'Frozen' at The Barclay's Center in Brooklyn - Arrivals at Barclays Center, Disney - Brooklyn, New York, United States - Wednesday 12th November 2014
David Auburn - Photographs of a variety of stars as they arrived at the Manhattan Theatre Club Fall benefit which was held in The Appel Room at Jazz in the Lincoln Center's Fredrick P. Rose Hall in New York, New York, United States - Tuesday 11th November 2014
Cotter Smith, David Auburn and Joely Richardson - Cotter Smith, Joely Richardson, William Weller and David Auburn New York City, USA - Opening night after party for the Off-Broadway production of 'Side Effects' held at 49 Grove restaurant - Arrivals Sunday 19th June 2011
Director Alejandro Agresti's The Lake House, based on a South Korean film called Il Mare, takes the premise that launched movies such as Back to the Future and Frequency and asks, "What would a good boyfriend do with these powers?" The powers in this case involve a mystical mailbox that connects two would-be lovers who are living two years apart. Unfortunately, the answer to that question ends up being "Nothing interesting enough to last for almost two hours."
Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) is an architect living in Chicago who has recently bought the lake house built by his cold, uncaring father (Christopher Plummer). Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) is a doctor living in Chicago who has recently moved out of the same house. She leaves a note in the mailbox for the next tenant, which is received by Alex who, puzzled by the note's references to objects that aren't there (yet), writes back. Eventually the two figure out that they are, in fact, living in different years - Alex in 2004, and Kate in 2006. She doesn't bother to tell him how the election turned out.
Being lonely workaholic types and apparently lacking a broadband connection, they decide to continue the correspondence. Rather than ask for stock tips or sports scores, Alex opts instead to do little favors for Kate, planting a tree that will later grow out in front of her apartment complex, or leaving graffiti for her on a wall that no one bothers to clean or write over for two years. As they grow closer, Alex discovers why he can't be with Kate in his present, while Kate struggles with trying to meet him in hers.
The Lake House is the type of film that could make a fantastic half hour episode of The Twilight Zone, but needs to bring a lot more to the table if it wants to stretch to feature length. For starters, the dialogue does not sound like it came from the pen of a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, but that's David Auburn's name right there in the opening credits. Reeves and Bullock are serviceable in their roles, with Reeves playing 10 percent less wooden than usual and Bullock conveying forlorn with aplomb, but none of this is terribly new or interesting. If anything, Alex's B-plot relationship with his father, which prompts a speech Auburn must have copied and pasted from a better script he had lying around, merits more screen time than the A-plot it barely services.
Agresti's direction at times results in some interesting visuals, including clever attempts to show the pair occupying the same space at different times in one shot. Meanwhile, attempts to have the characters verbalize their written correspondence just make them seem like they're talking to themselves. And while the story has some fun with the notion of a postal bridge across time, the poorly concealed plot points make it seem like there's some mystical mailbox at the end of the film sending us everything that's going to happen before we're halfway into the movie.
In the end, The Lake House is not a particularly bad film, but it's not a particularly good one, either. It smacks mostly of wasted potential, and the sense that the phrase "close enough" informed too many choices. If I were sending letters back in time to someone advising them on which films to skip, I'd probably forget to even mention this.
Pass the salt, Sady.
Familiarity with Auburn's stage presentation may breed contempt for this version, which feels distinctly off-kilter from its first frames. Mysteries that held water longer in the theater instead land like Doc Marten's on a flimsy piece of plywood here. Director John Madden samples a chatty, analytical approach to his literal translation but gets swept up in stagy, awkward, and all-too-deliberate line readings. Much like last year's ill-conceived Phantom of the Opera, this movie has few cinematic qualities that elevate it above a tedious and emotionless play rehearsal shot on location.
Continue reading: Proof (2005) Review