Ghost, but with architects. A chick flick re-imagined by math nerds. Alejandro Agresti's time-shifting romance The Lake House is an odd duck of a film, one that invites easy quips even as fails to completely satisfy.
The central idea is certainly familiar: Two emotionally dented Chicago professionals fall in love. The twist: She lives in 2006, while he's back in 2004.
In 2006, Dr. Kate Forester (Sandra Bullock) moves from the quirky lake house she's rented for two years, leaving a note in the mailbox with a request to forward any future letters. Instead, she gets a letter from the past: Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves), who moves to the house in 2004, finds her letter and responds. (Insert joke here about unreliable mail service.) By continuing to leave letters in this magical mailbox, the pair strike up a love connection.
Needless to say, dating someone from two years ago is a real challenge. (Kate thoughtfully refrains from telling Alex that the White Sox will take the 2005 World Series.) You'll have count on your fingers to sort out the plot, especially when the two coordinate to meet in person. For instance, how could Alex in 2004 "wait" for Kate in 2006? Shouldn't she wait for him, since he's behind? Plus, aren't they both still moving forward while waiting?
The Lake House is an adaptation of the 2000 South Korean film Il Mare (in a wink, a restaurant in House adopts the earlier film's name). The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Auburn (Proof) wrote the new screenplay, which, even as it strains credulity, at least benefits from a reserved, bittersweet tone rare to Hollywood remakes.
Since three of the central characters are architects, expect some discussion about form, function, and "light, always the light," as pí¨re Wyler (Christopher Plummer) counsels. Likewise, director Agresti, an Argentine, appears smitten with Chicago and its variety of architecture. Almost as interludes, he fills the screen with artfully composed shots of Chicago's grand buildings, both old and new (a city too is composed of physical slivers out of time).
Yet, for all this film's flaws, I still kinda liked it. I appreciated that an A-list romance could opt for melancholy over cute, and that Agresti occasionally employed long static shots that let the actors work. And I loved the little lake house ... a slightly whimsical glass box built over the water, constructed just for this film. What year, past or present, can I move in?
I never did quite figure out how the story resolved as it did. But the audience at the preview screening broke into spontaneous applause, proving once again that in love and in entertainment, emotion tops logic every time.