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THE LAKE HOUSE
U.S. Release Date: June 16, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Producer: Doug Davison, Dana Goldberg (executive), Roy Lee, Sonny Mallhi (co-producer), Erwin Stoff (executive)
Composer: Rachel Portman
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG (some language and a disturbing image)

Love Letters Arrive Slowly in Moody Romance
by Scott Holleran

Neither as enchanted as Somewhere in Time nor as bittersweet as Heaven Can Wait, the love-is-timeless-themed The Lake House is a piece of melancholy. By way of what it is not—cynical and gross like most of today's romantic comedies—it evokes aspects of love.

Reuniting stiff Keanu Reeves and frumpy Sandra Bullock for the first time since their frivolous 1994 action vehicle Speed, this totally illogical time travel romance is certainly flawed. Slow, rigged with inconsistencies (too many to mention) and laden with another Bullock character that looks like she slept on a lumpy mattress, it's easy to dismiss.

But that would deny the benefits of writer David Auburn's script, which encompasses two lonely lovers in different times. Their shared lake house correspondence—he lives in 2004, she exists in 2006—is wrapped in loss and laughter and it culminates in a stylized, if not fully realized, sketch of eternal love.

The circumstances are impossible and preposterous at once, and a scruffy female mutt named Jack that wandered in from Because of Winn-Dixie adds a cuteness that is sure to cause groans. Pick it apart as you please; at least this affair is not scowling at the whole world. He is an architect, she is a doctor, and their sad lives express the picture's theme that they belong in a better time.

They don't play video games—they don't fixate on keyboards—they don't talk like they've seen it all and know it all—they do archaic things like think about ideas and read books and write letters and talk to their parents. As their magical mailbox flags one another's time-traveling letters—which enhances the movie's tactile sense of connection—one becomes invested in their cold, strange journey.

The Lake House, whose title refers to a glass box that sits on stilts over a Chicagoland lake, is bleak, yet frigid Bullock and detached Reeves fit the parts. He struggles to find satisfaction in his work, drinking beer with his brother and shadowboxing with his self-absorbed architect father (Christopher Plummer) and he's confident that happiness is possible, though he wonders whether it will happen for him.

She is dubious, dressed as if she's about to plunk herself in front of the stereo for a Jackson Browne marathon, and oblivious to her own desires. She wears drab as a badge of honor, and, because she's a big city doctor—as anyone working in medicine knows—she has earned it. Supported by a kind colleague (Shohreh Aghdashloo), she is an idealist trapped inside a depressed workaholic.

She is wooed by a handsome, lawyer ex (Dylan Walsh) and they twaddle around Chicago—Bullock never looks happy—while she exchanges letters about life with Keanu Reeves and she ponders whether to give him a shot at catching her in time. It drags, which offers ample opportunity to notice errors, but the gist of The Lake House are the characters as works in progress.

With the couple striving to connect, while reading, writing and experiencing life, there's enough that rings true—the art of eating alone, the agony of being stood up, the strain of holding on and the release of letting go of a dream—to sustain this experiment. Though it never achieves the status of a sweeping epic, let alone a sleeper like Time After Time or Late for Dinner, and a cup of coffee before the show is strongly recommended, The Lake House nearly offsets a dismal tone with the timeless language and power of love.


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