The Lake House
As a critic, I'm perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief when it comes to things like magical realism, or animated cars that talk through their grilles, or the marriage of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. It's a lot harder to do it with the new Keanu Reeves-Sandra Bullock romance "The Lake House." Built somewhat shakily on the plot of the Korean film "Il Mare," "The Lake House" asks us to drop everything from our disbelief to our shorts, and go along with a story that has him living in 2004 and her living in 2006, and yet communicating through their mailbox. There is either a time warp or a really bad postal service here. Their communication gets so good that they fall in love with each other. What they should have done is fall in love with the mailman.
The film opens with Bullock moving out of her rented lake house - a modernist glass structure on pilings somewhere outside Chicago - and leaving a note for the next tenant, who turns out to be Reeves, who's actually coming in two years earlier and who answers her note by saying that no one had lived there for some years. Well, one thing leads to another, and pretty soon we're watching the flag on the mailbox pop up and down every few seconds as the notes get more personal. She's a doctor at Chicago City Hospital, he's an architect who's now a builder for a suburban developer. The lake house was designed by his father (Christopher Plummer), a much more famous architect than his son, and a man who isn't shy about letting him know it.
I see I haven't mentioned their dog; that is, the dog he has in 2004 and she has in 2006. I tell you this because it's the dog that's responsible for their only actual encounter, at a party her own boyfriend had given in 2004, when he and his then-girlfriend chased his dog to their house. Why did the dog run to Bullock's house? Because he knew she would one day become his owner? And if so, how did the dog get from him to her? Frankly, I don't have the answer. We're apparently into M. Night Shyamalan country here. At any rate, at that fateful party they go outside, they dance to overheard music, they neck, and they are discovered in necking flagrante by their partners. Hey, no big deal, though. Just a ten-minute stand.
But let me tell you what I liked about "The Lake House." I liked, very much, the direction by Alejandro Agresti, an Argentine filmmaker in his first North American job here. I also liked what I believe is real chemistry between the normally stone-faced Reeves and the deliberately girlish Bullock. They've grown up, they talk like real people, and Agresti, in the face of the most witless plot in ages, has found a way to show us a real love affair. The affair actually captures us emotionally and carries us along until - well, until the disastrous ending, which not only is a cheap copout but negates everything that came before. My advice? Leave when you see the end coming.