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Friday, June 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Movie Review

"The Lake House" delivers a pretty package that doesn't make sense

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review2 stars


Showtimes and trailer

"The Lake House," with Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Christopher Plummer, Dylan Walsh, Shohreh Aghdashloo. Directed by Alejandro Agresti, from a screenplay by David Auburn, based on the motion picture "Il Mare." 108 minutes. Rated PG for some language and a disturbing image. Several theaters.

Alejandro Agresti's romantic drama "The Lake House" is a pretty soap bubble of a movie. It's lovely to look at and calming to watch, but don't try to touch it — it just might pop and vanish, right there in your hand.

Based on the 2000 South Korean film "Il Mare" (which, to my knowledge, has never been released in theaters here), it's the story of a pretty, lonely Chicago doctor named Kate (Sandra Bullock) and a handsome, lonely architect named Alex (Keanu Reeves). As the film begins, we see Kate and her dog, Jack, moving out of the house she's been renting by the lake. It's a strange, glass-walled place on stilts, crouching delicately above the water like a pretty spaceship. She leaves a note for the next tenant, who turns out to be Alex, and they begin a correspondence. Only one problem: They're living in different years.

Unlike most other time-travel dramas like "Somewhere in Time" or "Frequency," Kate and Alex actually aren't too far apart: She's in 2006, he's in 2004. And the ease with which they accept their unusual circumstances is remarkable. Before you know it, they're taking strolls around the city together, separated only by the minor inconvenience of living in different time periods. (How do they do this? Well ... they just do.)

Because the couple is taking all of this so calmly, we take it all in, too. It takes Shohreh Aghdashloo, in the small but bracing role of a brisk fellow doctor who befriends Kate, to act as the voice of reason. Hearing about her friend's epistolary affair, she's horrified. "He's in prison, isn't he?" she demands abruptly.

Well, no ... everything about David Auburn's sweet, sincere screenplay is meant to be taken at face value; you either buy into it, or you don't. The lake house, entirely transparent with its curtainless glass (what, don't they have a bathroom?), sits serenely in the middle of the movie as its central metaphor: It doesn't make sense, but there it is. If you start fretting about the details of this movie, not only will your forehead get all wrinkled (So, if he waits two years, he'll catch up? But won't she have moved on? And what about that dog?), but you'll lose its delicate pleasure.

Bullock, an underrated dramatic actress, gives a gentle performance here that well suits the movie's mood; she never overplays emotions. Reeves, never the most expressive of actors, is less effective, mostly because he gets bogged down in the screenplay's architect-speak (he has to talk a great deal about interconnection and light). But there's something romantically appealing about these two lonely souls colliding, against all odds. You root for them, even as you know that it's all pretty silly — and even as a too-obvious early foreshadowing has told us more than we want to know.

In the height of the summer movie season, when the multiplexes are full of noise, you might find the quiet of "The Lake House" appealing. Just be careful, as with all glass houses, not to throw stones.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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