People Who Film in Glass Boxes -- Shouldn't

Washington City Paper | June 16, 2006
On the far side of the sentimentality spectrum is The Lake House, an atrocious romantic drama starring Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves. It’s slow-moving, unengaging, and ultimately unsatisfying. Yet the movie should be recognized for its one dubious achievement: matching the manufactured preciousness of director Alejandro Agresti’s previous release, Valentín, a semiautobiographical tale about an 8-year-old boy who’s such a little man he bickers with his grandmother about the tailoring of his pant legs.

The new movie’s story isn’t exactly original, but this time the director has someone besides himself to blame. A Korean film, Il Mare was the basis for Proof writer David Auburn’s screenplay about a couple who fall in love via a wrinkle in time. Kate (Bullock), a doctor, is moving out of her ridiculous glass-walled , uh, lake house to take a job at a Chicago hospital. She leaves a note for Alex (Reeves), the new resident, apologizing for a couple of inherited-with-the-house details and asking him to forward any mail to her new address. Alex writes Kate back—putting the letter in his mailbox, which is, God knows how, where Kate knows to look for it when she takes a drive back to the country on her day off. He says that he doesn’t see either of the things she’s mentioned. Eventually, they begin to bicker about which one of them is crazy, because their respective letters—always left in his mailbox—are dated wrong. Kate’s say 2006. Alex’s say 2004.

So, naturally, they fall in love. Really, there’s no basis for their, um, long-distance romance besides the whoa-inducing realization that...they’re both right! Soon, each is asking about the other’s likes, which cringingly include stuff way too closely related to sunsets, puppies, and long walks on the beach. Meanwhile, they bemoan to themselves and others how isolated they’ve let themselves become. Kate plays chess with the dog. Alex, an architect like his father (Christopher Plummer), points out to his nearly purposeless brother (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) that the house we discover his pop built is just a glass box, completely disconnecting its occupant from the world.

Agresti mostly has the characters communicate in voice-over as they pen their missives, but occasionally he’ll show them merely talking to each other, whether separately or, ghostlike, in the same place. It doesn’t matter—these long conversations are Snoozeville, often featuring lines like “I could be a shoulder for you like you’ve been for me” and such overly obvious musical cues as Paul McCartney’s “This Never Happened Before” and Carole King’s “It’s Too Late.”

You’d do well to keep the latter in mind if you’re considering heading to the theater: In reality, you can’t travel through time to retrieve your $10.

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