June 22, 2006

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The Lake House (PG)
Yet another chemistry-free couple is brought together by fantastic real estate in the soggy romance The Lake House, a film that seems to exhaust both Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.

Bullock is puffy around the eyes and appears to be in desperate need of a cup of coffee; Reeves acts like heís spent six nights up with a crying baby. Forget love, you want to tell them, take a nap.

Take a nap and hire some movers, as both of them make a couple of relocations during the course of the film and perhaps thatís what has them all worn out. As we open, Kate (Bullock) has just left her beautiful all-glass house at the lake. With sad eyes and a forlorn dog, she drives her single-girl belongings to nearby Chicago where she is starting work at a hospital. But the big city leaves her feeling alone and she misses the lake house so she drives out to visit and leaves a letter explaining that the dog prints on the entryway to the house were there when she got there and asking the new occupant to forward her mail.

Alex (Reeves), an architect who makes his money building condos, is moving in to the lake house and finds the letter in the mailbox. He writes back with a few polite words, including that there are no paw prints and dates the letter 2004. Kate writes back that itís 2006. Soon, they figure out that Alex isnít the next occupant of the house but the houseís first occupant in a long time and that he is renting the house two years before Kate has moved out.

After tentatively accepting that they are writing each other though some sort of time portal (one that meets inside the lake houseís mailbox ó thatís where they leave and pick up each otherís letters), Kate and Alex form a friendship through their letters. Both are lonely solitary people so a romance formed without any physical contact seems to suit them both. Over time, Alex is able to use clues of Kateís past to attempt to meet her (a her that has not yet written the letters) in person. The real trick will be if Alex will be willing and able to wait the two years until he and Kate can catch up with each other in time.

Real estate is hot right now in romantic movies ó The Break-Up was mostly about two people and their individual love of a terrific condo in Chicago. Just Like Heaven had a couple bond over their mutual appreciation for a beautiful one-bedroom with hardwood floors in San Francisco. Iím not sure what has turned finding the perfect apartment into foreplay but I do know that while dating is a whirligig of fun and excitement, looking for a place to live is a depressing, hellish experience. And looking for a place to live with another person exceeds the ordinary hellishness of this chore and quickly becomes a commentary on the relationship, with your unwillingness to get a ďhandymanís specialĒ evidence of your extravagance and his insistence on something within a specific geographic area a an example of his inflexibility. There will be yelling, there will be discussions of credit scores, there will be resentments. Yes, a man who comes with his own one-of-a-kind, packed-with-natural-light lake-front property might indeed be the perfect catch.

As lovely and complex and full of character and excitement as the titular abode is (it has a tree growing right through the center of it!), it canít make up for the disinterested weariness of its future and former occupants. Itís like we are supposed to see Kate and Alex as a couple of people who have been kicked round by life and have retreated emotionally. But these are not actors who do well with layers; instead of complexity we get that look of post-weekend hangover.

They drag, the movie drags and even we begin to feel a sort of dreary sleepiness. If only that house had a nice comfy sofa in it. C-


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