The Truth About Charlie Movie Review

It's possible to pinpoint the exact scene where the wheels come off director Jonathan Demme's rickety, pointless remake of the 1963 Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn thriller Charade, where the whole ride comes to a screeching halt. Following an ill-timed hit-and-run accident that eliminates a crucial character, a hubcap actually rolls down the street and stops by Thandie Newton's noggin. Subliminal? I think not.

We may never know the truth about Charlie. Demme fills his European vacation with endless lies fed to us by self-serving criminals. The result circles endlessly around a thin mystery that the director punches up with inspired visual tricks, though logic would have been preferred.

Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) returns from holiday to find her Parisian flat demolished and her husband, Charlie, murdered. Eventually, the police unveil the truth about Charlie: He worked undercover as a member of a secret government agency, the Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC). A kindly stranger (Mark Wahlberg) Regina previously met in the Caribbean offers to help this damsel in distress, who now must fend off three of her husband's former cohorts seeking a fortune Charlie hid from them following a botched mission.

By placing us in Regina's shoes, Demme keeps the audience approximately two tango steps behind the action. Sexy and exotic, Newton proves she can play both spunky and vulnerable. But with spicy European locales as his backdrop, the painfully American Wahlberg comes off as bland and one-note. And Tim Robbins, playing an ODC official, attempts a bizarre foreign accent that feels more Boston than Belgium.

Through its first act, Charlie keeps us entertained with flashy P.O.V. shots and distracting, off-center camera angles. Demme just can't maintain the pace, and his bullet train grinds to a dull crawl before too long. If anything, the director begins to overload us with pointless vignettes that mesh inconsistently with assorted nonsensical plot twists and a far-fetched romance. What we could have used was a few more shots that unraveled this mess of a mystery.

Demme's visual experiments ultimately can't disguise the fact that he's working from an overly complex and ultimately illogical script. Identities get traded faster than baseball cards at summer camp, and Demme never explains how or why allegiances are formed or broken. Chunks of scenes feel like dream sequences, except no one ever wakes up. The result is a convoluted nightmare.

The truth went thataway!


Comments

The Truth About Charlie Rating

" Terrible "

Rating: PG-13, 2002

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