It has been 12 full years since Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves drove (and flew) a bus to superstardom, and they haven't worked together since. But they attended the Oscars "together" in March, and their "togetherness" on the red carpet reminded us of their excellent chemistry on Bus 2525, and how strangely fulfilling it was to see them finally make out on a rolling wooden board at LAX, and then make out again after a thunderous subway crash a short time later. They were young and supple and focused and available. Now if only they'd make another film so we could once again revel in --
Behold: The Lake House, a romantic comedy about two people (a doctor and a quasi-architect) who are separated by two years but can communicate instantly via a magic mailbox. [SPOILERS AHEAD.] I accept that premise at face value. I love movies that include time travel/manipulation. I attended a showing yesterday, ready to be charmed.
I was. Somewhat. Until, that is, they actually meet (don't yell at me -- you knew they were going to meet). They stride toward each other, gaze, and kiss. And kiss awkwardly. Like, little pecks and bites -- sometimes on the lips, sometimes on the cheek or chin. None of that erotic, smooth, velvety, tongue-y, horizontal smooching at the end of Speed. At the end of The Lake House, it was like watching two narcotized woodpeckers bob languidly against each other's beaks: uncomfortable, uneven, stilted. In short, anticlimactic and unfulfilling.
Pity, I thought then. I had been confused by the mechanics of space-time in the movie's last 10 minutes, but had nevertheless enjoyed much of it; Sandy and Keanu are still likeable, attractive and capable of helping us tolerate and even pardon a movie's absurdities. Then why the ugly snogging? Had 12 years of abstinence disrupted their kissing chemistry? Surely there was a better explanation...
Then, this morning, the eureka: Clips of Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman's famous kiss in Notorious are played multiple times (by happenstance) throughout The Lake House. One of Sandy's patients watches it in a hospital room; Sandy herself views it at home later. When Notorious was made in 1946, the motion picture production code forbade liplocks over three seconds long. So Hitchcock, ever the clever cad, directed Grant and Bergman to interrupt their kissing at least every three seconds. He kept the camera on them for almost three minutes as they smacked, released, and smacked again. It was, in essence, a multi-minute kiss that was technically permissable by code.
My theory: Agresti directed Sandy and Keanu to emulate that kiss, thereby bringing one of The Lake House's visual themes full circle. Nevermind that The Lake House finds no other inspiration in Notorious besides the kiss, or that the kiss has the opposite effect in 2006 as it did in 1946. Film directors love their paeans, though, even when they make absolutely no sense.