Study Keanu Reeves’ bio and it’s hard to fathom how he has survived at the top of his field for two decades. So it makes sense that this graduate of The Surfer Dude School of Acting would be chosen as the perfect leading man in The Lake House – a film that intertwines romance, fairy tale and the fantastic to defy logic on many levels. Yet with a list of potentially disastrous ingredients, Reeves and his Speed co-star Sandra Bullock overcome the odds to create a sparkling little gem of a movie. Whoa.
Sandra Bullock plays Kate Forster, a young doctor who trades in her tranquil lake house – an ultra-modern, glassed-in Frank Gehry-like structure – for a condo in the city and a job at a bustling Chicago hospital. She leaves a note for the next occupant, Alex Wyler (Reeves), in a magical mailbox, asking him to forward her letters. Alex, a broody architect/condo developer, is puzzled by her note. No one has lived at the lake house for years, he explains. Could she have the wrong address? Kate writes back: there’s only one lake house. She’s not mistaken, and the year is 2006, not 2004, thank you very much. More letters transpire. Alex personally delivers Kate’s mail to her new address, only to find a construction site for a high-rise that has yet to be built. Disbelief and wonderment ensues. Could they really be living in different times – exactly two years apart? The answer is yes.
Eventually, the two accept this supernatural twist of fate and fall in love, embarking in “the ultimate long distance relationship.” The next step: how can they meet? The Kate of 2004 wouldn’t know what’s happened in 2006, bringing about a Groundhog Day element where Alex can’t explain to her their bizarre predicament. The other option, where Alex meets Kate in her time, proves just as problematic for the couple, and equally mind-boggling for the audience. Best not to think about it too hard. Just play along. It will hurt less.
With ingredients borrowed from Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, Back to the Future, Somewhere in Time, and Star Trek, The Lake House is one strange, heady brew. Based on the Korean film Siworae, Argentine director Alejandro Agresti manages to rework these Hollywood themes into a guilty pleasure of the highest order. Chicago is lovingly shot, and under Pulitzer Prize winner David Auburn’s sturdy hand, (he wrote the play and film Proof) scenes breathe and characters are allowed to engage in conversations with extended dialogue.
A warning to alpha males and logic sticklers: The Lake House is a film that insists upon the complete suspension of disbelief, which comes with its own set of challenges. For example, how can two people from two different time periods fall in love, much less communicate? And why would two superhumanly attractive people be single in the first place? How is an old-fashioned mailbox able to bend the time-space continuum? And who really uses those old-fashioned mailboxes, with those cute little red flags, anyways? How do Kate and Alex come to share the same mangy dog? How do they successfully misappropriate the conventions bound by the epistolary format, completing each other’s sentences and having one-word conversations? And how realistic is it that the first question this noble creature asks, when accepting that he is in fact communicating with someone from the future, isn’t who wins the Super Bowl or the FIFA World Cup? Call me a sucker. I went with it.
And therein lies the rub: Spend the movie nitpicking at trifling details like plot, logic and common sense and you won’t squeeze a drop of enjoyment from this film. Treat it like a fairy tale – where trees talk, unicorns exist, and Keanu Reeves can convincingly play a charming leading man – and you will enjoy it for the wealth of small gifts this film has to offer.