Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock starred together as a cute and unlikely pair in the movie Speed a zillion years ago. She was a cute kid then and he was the rising action star, dude. A lot of people don't think Keanu can act -- one of the best cuts I've heard was describing his whole emotional range as running the gamut from A to B -- but I'm not one of them. I think his earnest but masked delivery suits some roles better than others, and he's not responsible for the mess the W. brothers made of Matrix III, but overall I've enjoyed most of the Keanu movies I've seen.
At any rate, the pair have grown up sufficiently to play this gentle time paradox movie.
I keep on wanting to call this a time travel movie, but it's not the people who are time traveling, it's the letters in a mailbox -- it's information moving. And yet, if I were to come up with a capsule tag for this movie, I'd still want to call it "The Time Traveler's Wife Lite". (grin) The latter book is much more coherent and bittersweet, but this is a fun and okay movie diversion on a beastly hot June day.
A Slow Time In Chicago
We didn't realize it was set in and around Chicago from the promos. Yay, Chicago! And we're not talking about letting Toronto stand in for Chicago for all the big money shots.
I love a complicated plot. Here the complications come in the form of letters and information being passed back and forth through an old mailbox out at the Lake House in question. The only trouble is he's in 2004 and she's in 2006. You need a flow chart to keep track of who knows what when. Not nearly as complicated as the flow chart for Back to the Future!, but satisfying.
A Craftsman Behind The Camera
One of the things which makes this movie so appealing to me is that the cinematography is just beautiful. Everything is about lines and motion -- every setup is shot just right and available light plays almost another character. There are a number of very interesting overhead shots, including some crucial scenes in Daley Plaza. And the shot from the train, leaving Keanu behind on the platform evokes stillness in motion.
But Wouldn't You Want To Cheat?
Obviously the two main characters have never thought about time travel/displacement stories before, or they'd be all over the sending two years of stock and sports scores from 2006 to 2004. But why rile up the gods unnecessarily? This is a gentle PG film after all. Besides, the type of information time travel going on here is disruptive -- "insider" information would surely come back to bite them.
Because this is a serial time looping story -- every exchange makes subtle changes in both past and present. If you like, the Copenhagen many-worlds view of quantum physics suggests that all quantum possibilities have occurred -- and we merely perceive time along one thread. Think of this film as switching tracks and jumping from threat to thread. And though this remarkable turn of events has a profound impact on their lives, they're both busy people and they can't just the entire two years sitting in front of the mailbox until they catch up with each other. They have to fit in real life, too, which keeps pulling them apart.
Ultimately, you can't go directly from the beginning to the end of the story, and there are some interesting leftovers unmentioned, but this is first and foremost a love story, so that's the story they want to concentrate on. The ending is a weaving of three or four timelines, not two, which muddies the waters and creates some real tension.
Morgan, the ex-boyfriend, never really gets a chance -- at least, not more than he did before 2004. Mrs. Dr. Phil found him icky enough to wonder why Sandra Bullock's character found him appealing at all in the first place. I figured, they're both professional people, him a lawyer and her a doctor, that it's hard to find other people who understand about time obsessed jobs.
And there's a side story involving Keanu's family growing up. But what this does is merely multiply the connection space and stretch out the time it takes to try to get the two together in the same place and the same time.
All in all, for a 2006 summer release, I found this film to be satisfyingly slow and complete enough -- and earns an honest PG rating without being rude in any manner. And if you still question as to whether Keanu can act or not, remember he's running half a love story where he isn't even in the same time zone (grin) as his love interest.