Long Walk Off a Short Pier

24-Jan-07 1:51 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 2 comments.

Temporal mechanics intrigue me, such that I'm willing to go to great lengths to expose myself to such — whether it is watching Adam Sandler's Click, or perusing Nicholson Baker's revolting, aimless The Fermata.

It was this drive that led me to The Lake House, despite reviews urging against such desperate action. For those who didn't get the memo, this newest pairing of the Speed duo of Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock has them sending letters (but little else) to each other via a mailbox that transports Bullock's notes two years into the past, to 2004, and Reeves' two years into the future.

The Lake House is what you get when you cross the concept of Frequency — two-way communication between temporally-displaced individuals in the same house — with the plot of Happy Accidents — someone trying to change the past to find a soulmate. I found the former film fascinating: I love Dennis Quaid, and though the movie's application of temporal mechanics may've been illogical, it was both unique and internally consistent (and applied to a murder-mystery, which is infinitely cooler than a romance). The latter film tried my patience with unlikable protagonists and a plodding plot. The Lake House falls firmly in the middle of those two, not just in quality but in devices, featuring both unlikable protagonists and internally inconsistent mechanics.

First, these actors typify the wooden acting of which only Keanu is normally indicted. Their only feature that changes is Bullock's hair; their facial expressions and tone are flat, doing little to convey feelings, intent, or any other human character. Keanu's familial relationships have some depth, but no other interactions are worth much. The characters' deductive powers aren't vast, either. You'd think that all the records at our fingertips in today's information age would've addressed their unsolved mysteries, but such never occurs to them.

Second, akin to The Time Traveler's Wife (coming soon to a theater near you), the two characters' eras influence each other in a self-fulfilling prophecy fashion. Though I appreciate that the film demonstrates this capacity from the get-go, it leaves little to either subtlety or coincidence, cluing the audience in to this quality sooner than either character. Though it's fun to see certain scenes play out, we can generally predict their appearance and conclusion long before anyone on-screen recognizes what's happening.

Continue reading for spoilers….

The lack of subtlety reaches its climax with the film's, when the mother of all temporal paradoxes is created to ensure a happy ending. The Lake House could've appealed to my morbid fascination by letting time flow along its natural course, with no do-overs — but I would've been upset by the pointlessness of it all. Who wants to watch a film that reaffirms the futility of life and love and which diminishes hope? Isn't that the same kind of logic that gave us cubicles?

But the film's plot had painted itself into two extreme corners: a picture-perfect, clichéd Hollywood ending, or a dark, depressing one. The one they chose is a violation of the sensibilities of any logical viewer. Though Star Trek is often criticized for its dependency on such temporal devices, it has at least occasionally been used to sublime effect. Likewise, I'm told the ending of The Lake House's inspiration, the South Korean film Il Mare, is more upbeat and subtler than this movie's. I cannot attest to that from experience, but nor can I fathom it not being true.

I actually did like this film, even if I don't understand why. Maybe it was the attractive cinematography, or the cute dog. But I also comprehend and concur with the critics' lament: almost anything The Lake House does has been done better elsewhere.

2 Responses to “Long Walk Off a Short Pier”

  1. sheppy adds:

    I got a kick out of Frequency. Good movie. Not a great movie, but a lot of fun and, yes, internally consistent with its temporal mechanics.

    I'm excited about a film of The Time Traveler's Wife. I enjoyed the book immensely. I admit I'm a little concerned about how well it will adapt into a film though.

  2. hiphopguy23 adds:

    Speaking of temporal mechanics, Hiphopguy23 saw Idiocracy on DVD last night: a time travel movie where an average Joe finds himself the smartest man in the future due to generations of rampant breeding by the less-educated populace. Hiphopguy23 hasn't laughed that hard in a long time and recommends it heartily… provided you are laughing at the future idiots because they enjoy the #1 TV show Ow, My Balls and not at the TV show itself.