"Just sink into the romantic illusion, and ask no questions."

 

THE LAKE HOUSE

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


                “The Lake House” will hold you with three wonderful sights:  the house, Sandra Bullock, and Keanu Reeves.  The plot and its mechanics may drive you nuts.  Not that I have anything against time warps, I love them.  But I couldn’t figure this one out even in hindsight.  Don’t bring a literal mindset to this one; just sink into a romantic illusion, and ask no questions.  Here’s the good stuff. 

                The house.  It was designed and built by renowned architect Simon Wyler (Christopher Plummer).  It sits on stilts over the water of a lake near Chicago.  It is small and entirely transparent with just enough framing to hold the glass.  Curtains of any kind would be a gross violation.  Access is via a long, narrow planked bridge.  The only problem with this beckoning mystery of a place is that we are never invited inside.  It’s almost enough, though not quite, to look through it to the water and to love it as the perfect backdrop for a fairy tale. 

                Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves.  They took us on history’s wildest bus ride (Speed) a decade or so ago, and if we don’t remember the details, we surely remember the fear and the fun of it.  They were terrific then, and are even better now.  They still have wonderful faces but now they have the intelligence of experience in their eyes, and they use every bit of it to convince us they are falling in love without meeting face to face.  They succeed completely.  Dare I use the word charm?  They have it.

                But here’s the tricky part.  Kate is a doctor who is moving to Chicago to practice at a city hospital.  As she moves out of the Lake House, she leaves a letter in the mailbox for the next tenant.  Alex, an architect, receives the letter, but it quickly becomes clear that he is living in 2004 while she is living in 2006.    We are supposed to follow by watching various people fade in and out, by studying a dog who obviously loves both of them.  Their reading aloud of the mailbox letters as they fall in love is the core of the film.  If you figure out the dog, the people, and the time frames, that’s gravy. 

A stray man who wants to marry Kate is a complete dork; the girl who wears high heels to Alex’s building site is a hen head.  Only Alex’s problems with his forbidding father have the power to be more than distractions.  Christopher Plummer, growing handsomer by the year, puts his grand talent into being a crotchety grump of a celebrity architect, more than is needed perhaps, but still great fun to watch.

                Leaving the time warp problem aside, the lead actors are without guile.  They are idealized and winning, tender and sensitive.  They are people we could love and respect - if only they would invite us into that magical glass house.
 


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