We watched "The Lake House" last night. Dear me, it is a terrible film.
Now, to be honest, it was always off to a rough start. Firstly, it stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.
Now, Keanu Reeves is a bad actor, but he has been in some good films: "Speed", "The Devil's Advocate", "The Matrix" (and perhaps the full trilogy). I also liked "Through a Scanner Darkly", though that was only sort-of him. Oh, and of course the "Bill and Ted" epics. But those are pretty rare in a career of mediocre films. (In fact, he's worse off that even Arnold Swartzenegger, who is also a bad actor, even worse than Keanu in fact, but who somehow has found a knack of appearing in a lot of good films.) Still, it could be worse - it could be Patrick Dempsey.
And Sandra Bullock also also a bad actor. She has also been in some good films: "Speed", "Demolition Man", and... um... Still, it could be worse - it could be, um, Eva Longoria? Sarah Jessica Parker? Jennifer Lopez?
So, put the two together, and it appears that you need a speeding bus to save matters. Funnily enough, there is a bus in "The Lake House", but...
Actually, even before getting to a discussing the stars, perhaps we should rewind one step further: it's a romance. Not a "romantic comedy", but a straight-up romance. Which isn't too bad - dropping the so-called 'comedy' generally improves matters. But still, it's not a good sign - give me a good action movie, or horror movie, or comedy, or drama, and I'll be happier. I don't mind romance, and actually like well-done romances, but they're not my favourite.
So, the plot revolves around a magical mailbox, that allows the two-way transfer of letters across two years. Exciting! And so, K&S 'meet', and exchange a whole bunch of letters, and they go on walks 'virtually' together, and stuff. Aw, cute!
With one small problem. See, movies need dialogue. And when the two main characters don't meet, how do you deal with that?
Well, "The Lake House" works out a clever and interesting way to resolve this: it completely ignores it. So, our two characters, who communicate only by letter, have carefully interleaved dialogue by the magic of split-screen.
Which, of course, makes no sense at all. Perhaps they should have chosen a different communication method - the superior "Frequency" makes use of magic short-wave radios, perhaps "The Lake House" could have had a magic Bluetooth headset, or internet chatroom, or similar?
Anyway, never mind. The plot unfolds, and it quickly becomes apparent that tragedy is looming. They agree to meet in the future, but Keanu stands Sandra up (the cad!). Something must have gone horribly wrong!
And this is the point where the film departs from all sanity. At this point, Sandra decides to call the whole thing off. They failed at the very first hurdle; it's obviously not to be. Never mind that there could be hundreds of reasons for him not showing.
But, actually, it's sillier than that. See, we have these things called telephones. So, rather than simply calling things off, she should instead have said, "here's my number; call me." Done.
Oh well, never mind, it's film logic.
So, she stops writing to him, and the plot continues to unfold. There then follows a scene in the 'past' in which he comments that he "has to find her".
Now, let's apply just a moment's thought here. He stayed in the lakehouse before renting it out to her. She then stayed in the lakehouse for quite some time. Shortly after she left, they made contact. But, in any case, he has her forwarding address.
Hmm, how will he find her? Shall he (a) go visit her at the lakehouse, where she now lives, or (b) wait until she's left the lakehouse, and then go visit her there? If only there were some way for him to find her!
("But she'll think he's a crazy stalker!" you say. That's fair enough, except for two small details: firstly, he's already shown, earlier in the film, that he is smart enough not to freak her out with time-travel nonsense. Secondly, if he absolutely can't do that, he has proof. "Go look in that box in the attic. See all those letters, written in your handwriting?")
But, anyway, he doesn't do this. Instead, he waits until the one date where he knows exactly where she will be - on Valentine's Day she will be in a particular square when an unknown man dies in her arms, thus prompting this whole adventure. So, off he rushes to that square, and a date with a speeding bus.
Now, true, there's no way he could have known that the "unknown man" would be him. After all, the odds are stacked strongly against it. But then, if you know something has gone horribly wrong, and you know there's a speeding bus, why would you go to the one place you know holds risk, especially when you know where she will be on every single other day in the calendar, since you have her address?
Anyway, it all turns out okay. See, in the future, Sandra realises that the unknown man was him (apparently, despite being devastated by the death of the unknown man, that kicked off this whole adventure, she never bothered to find out his name previously...). So, she rushes out to the lakehouse with one final letter, warning him off. And they all live happily ever after...
So, we have at least two paradoxes:
- Firstly, the death of the unknown man sends Sandra back to the lakehouse, where she first discoveres the magic mailbox, and kicks off the whole adventure. But now, the unknown man never dies, so she doesn't go, so...
- Secondly, Keanu misses their planned date because he died at the square. But, because he misses the date, Sandra calls the whole thing off. This prompts Keanu to rush off to the square to become the unknown man.
I dunno, maybe I'm being too harsh and over-thinking the film. After all, they get to the kiss at the end, right? And that's all that matters, isn't it - the happy ending?
Oh, yeah, I forgot one more thing - Sandra's other boyfriend is a nice(ish) lawyer type, who basically does no wrong during the whole film. He's just a bit dull. And he puts up with a lot - there's the time she kisses another guy at the surprise party that her boyfriend has organised for her (yay!), then he becomes the "consolation prize" once she decides Keanu is a non-starter, and then he gets dumped again for this same guy.
Still, happy endings all round, right?