Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock emote up a storm Ã?' a light drizzle, anyway Ã?' in The Lake House, but it was the house I fell in love with, an all-glass pavilion on stilts that only a movie star could afford. So gracefully does it hover over the water, both spoiling and enhancing the view, that you keep being distracted from the holes in the movieÃ??s plot. An epistolary novel set in the age of YouÃ??ve Got Mail, The Lake House asks us to believe that ReevesÃ?? architect/developer and BullockÃ??s doctor have occupied this crystal palace in separate years and are only able to communicate with each other via snail mail from their respective time periods. Can their blossoming love break the bonds imposed by the space-time continuum? Can they meet at The Shop Around the Corner? Somewhere in Time? An Internet cafÃ??
Reeves and Bullock met in Speed, of course, but that little piece of hell-on-wheels isnÃ??t known for its romantic subplot. Here, director Alejandro Agresti (Valentin) slows things down considerably, and he goes for a more somber mood, the sun rarely peeking through overcast skies. Reeves is bummed because his father (Christopher Plummer), a world-class architect who designed the house at the lake, is also a world-class bastard. Bullock is bummed because...well, itÃ??s not quite clear why sheÃ??s bummed, but sheÃ??s quite clearly bummed, the actress showing little of the warmth that usually offsets that slight chilliness in her screen presence (except in Crash, where she let it all hang out). Agresti, whoÃ??s Argentinian, takes a chance by allowing these two sad sacks to wallow in their own self-pity, and you know what? It pays off.
Pays off eventually, I should say. As in Sleepless in Seattle, our romantic leads spend most of the movie apart, and neither of their stories is especially compelling, but they accumulate power as they go along, culminating in a scene where, plausibility be damned, they meet briefly at a party. I would never have thought Reeves could pull off such a scene; heÃ??s the Al Gore of actors, earnest and dull, especially when trying not to seem so earnest. But heÃ??s starting to settle into his stiffness, convert it into gravitas. And his line readings are looser, more real. Bullock maybe takes the dour thing too far this time, except for that ugh moment when she plays chess with her dog. But itÃ??s the movieÃ??s dourness, its refusal to let gray skies morph into blue, that makes it such a refreshing weepie. Who wants their tears glistening in the sunlight?u