The Lake House Movie Review
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.
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