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The Lake House (June 15/06)

With its unusually deliberate pace and emphasis on exceedingly somber themes, The Lake House is the last film one expects during the hectic summer season. Though it seems fairly obvious that the film wouldn't even exist if not for the presence of stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock, The Lake House can't help but come off as a refreshing change from all the big-budget, high-concept event pictures that are currently cluttering multiplexes.

The story revolves around a pair of would-be lovers - Reeves' Alex and Bullock's Kate - who are separated by two years, yet discover that they're able to communicate via a magical mailbox. A long distance relationship ensues, and it becomes clear fairly quickly that the two are ideally suited for one another.

Director Alejandro Agresti - working from a screenplay by David Auburn - imbues The Lake House with a confident, gentle rhythm that quickly proves to be an ideal match for the material. Alar Kivilo's lush cinematography and Rachel Portman's moody score effectively contribute to the melancholic vibe, while both Reeves and Bullock deliver strong, appropriately restrained performances that are as impressive as anything either has done in the past (something that's particularly true of a long, uninterrupted shot that just features the two chatting).

But as engaging and entertaining the film's first hour is, it's practically negated by some seriously illogical third-act behavior by Bullock's Kate. Without delving too far into spoiler territory, the baffling choice that Kate makes regarding her tentative relationship with Alex - following an ill-fated dinner date - ultimately comes off as a desperate move by Auburn to extend the movie's running time and keep Kate and Alex apart for just a little bit longer.

That being said, The Lake House generally remains an effective romance - though one can't help but wish the storyline had been streamlined (in addition to the aforementioned Kate blunder, Christopher Plummer pops up in an extended cameo that's utterly useless).

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