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Thursday, April 18, 2013

"The Lake House" 2006 Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, like "Save Send Delete," an Epistolary Romance, Deep Truths about Restraint in Love

The Lake House and its magical mailbox
Keanu Reeves checks his magical mail
Sandra Bullock and the magical dog. 

"The Lake House" is a 2006 movie starring Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. It's about two star-crossed lovers separated by an impossible barrier. She lives in the future; he lives in the past. They communicate via a magical mailbox and a magical dog. They put letters in the mailbox, and somehow the letters cross the time barrier.

Like "Save Send Delete," "The Lake House" is an epistolary romance. Two characters get to know each other, and fall in love, via the letters that they send to each other.

The time barrier thing doesn't make much sense. My friend Sandy McReynolds is a physicist. I bring him these questions. Could a woman living in 2006 fall in love with a man living in 2004?

I don't understand physics but I know enough about trees to know that the lake house in the film could not possibly have a giant tree growing inside it. In summer, the tree has maple leaves. In fall, the leaves are from an oak tree. Makes no sense.

But, like a fairy tale, "The Lake House" uses its absurd premise to speak deep truths. "The Lake House" speaks some hard truths about love.

Sometimes distance and restraint are the best environment to allow love to grow. Sometimes it pays to wait for love.

Can we even say that today? In an era of sexual promiscuity and sex-drenched media? Does anyone understand that any more? That, sometimes, the best way to fall in love with another human being is not to see them naked and have sex with them on the first date, but to give the love time?

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock are excellent together. They give the sense of déjà vu, of having been together before, and, of course, they have -- in "Speed." The plot keeps the two leads apart for much of the movie, but when they are placed together in the frame, they create the warmth of glowing coals. You really do believe that these two are in love, not just in a passionate way, but in a friendly way, as well.

The director places them in the same frame and has them read snippets of their letters to each other. One such scene takes place in a cafeteria. Sandra Bullock rests her chin on her hand as she listens to Reeves. It's a very moving, cozy shot.

When they finally kiss, well, it's a keeper of a kissing scene.

Reeves brings just the right amount of manly coolness and melted passion to his role. He goes from being a guy who would behave dismissively to a girl at work who has a crush on him, to being a man so much in love that he would kiss a stack of old letters.

Sandra Bullock is Sandra Bullock -- luminously beautiful, and yet playing down her glamor, acting the lonely, nose-to-the-grindstone working girl, expressing solidarity with all the working girls watching her up on the screen as no other current female star does.

Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston -- all lovely. Their performances all shout, "Me! Me! Me!" Sandra Bullock's performances shout, "Us!" Christopher Plummer is brilliant in a small role as Reeves' architect father.

Shoreh Aghdashloo is sadly underused as Sandra Bullock's best friend. Romance stars need a confidante, especially in this movie, where the leads are so often kept apart. Bullock is issued her coworker, Aghdashloo, and her mother, Willeke van Amelrooy. That's one too many. The movie isn't long enough to make either character complete and memorable.

I wish the director had done more to ease, for the viewer, the difficulties of the time differences between the two leads. Perhaps Reeves' portion could have been shot in black and white, and Bullock's in color.

The movie is not perfect, in other words.

But "The Lake House"'s message about love is real and deep and beautifully delivered.

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