The Lake House
Keanu Reeves is in a pickle. He’s at his best playing oddballs and scumbags in low-earning indies (respectively, Thumbsucker and The Gift), but his star cachet rests on playing Christ substitutes in monstro-budgeted actioners, something less viable since he passed the big four-oh. And so, Warner Brothers execs have wisely paired Reeves up with Sandra Bullock again.
It was Bullock, after all, who proved the only person able to milk a range of fairly normal human reactions out of the adorable Zen lug in Speed. So what do the producers of The Lake House do? They sink them in a romance whose very premise mostly disallows them from sharing the same frame.
Stunning dunderheadedness aside, The Lake House’s apparent goal is to cynically attempt the impossible balancing act of doing nothing to instill any discomforting feelings, no matter how tiny, in its audience, while also trying to keep them awake. The result plays like a cinematic version of a Starbucks background CD and leads to a post-movie sense of having marinated your brain in Novocaine for two hours.
The basic setup: Reeves plays an upscale Chicago architect, Bullock an upscale Chicago doctor. Both live in the same modernist glass lake house—a thorny geophysical problem explained by the fact that Reeves is, like, totally living in 2004 and Bullock in ’06.
Thanks to a plucky intertemporal mailbox, the two meet via missives and fall in love. Taking the position that it’s none of your business, the filmmakers never explain why this otherwise ordinary mailbox does such things.
After many a letter is written and shared across the vast chasm of two years, and at the approximate 60-minute point, Bullock figures out what the audience has been wondering since the first letter: Why not have Reeves just fucking wait two years and hook up?
They do, but fate and the demands for a third act mean some silly plot point gets in their way, and another half-hour listlessly passes. Before that, Christopher Plummer occasionally pops up to phone in another of his upper-class patriarch routines, this time as Reeves’ prick of a father.
When director Alejandro Agresti (Valentin) manages to pair the two, it’s clear that they not only like each other, but this affection enables each to transcend their limitations—Bullock’s increasing tendency toward an off-putting gruffness, Reeves’ flat line readings. You have to figure that the only reason The Lake House exists is for the studio to narrowcast-pander to an over-30 female demographic. Its fate will decide whether the filmmakers’ low estimations of their target’s intelligence are justified.