The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Truth About Charlie

Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, a very cool supporting cast, Paris locations and a mysterious story that keeps you guess throughout. The movie...1963's Charade. Nothing is sacred though in Hollywood so while I'm not exactly timely with this criticism, here's an unnecessary remake that is basically really bad on all accounts, 2002's The Truth About Charlie.

Returning home a vacation on a tropical island, Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) walks into her Paris apartment stunned at what she finds. The whole place has been ransacked and little remains but two detectives have been waiting for her. Why? Her husband of just a few months, Charles (Stephen Dillane), has been found dead, apparently murdered. The husband she thought she knew apparently was holding onto some deep, dark secrets, and that past is coming after Regina now. She begins to see people following her and has no idea what they're after. There seems to be one person on her side, a mysterious stranger, Josh Peters (Mark Wahlberg), who appears to be trying to help her. What was her husband actually into? Can Regina figure it out before she gets pulled in too deep? Time is quickly running out as her husband's enemies close in.

It's been several years since I saw Charade for the first time. Is it an all-time classic? No, but looking back on it, I know I liked it for all the right reasons. It's goofy at times, dark at others, and entertaining throughout. But almost 40 years later? Eh, no one really has a memory for anything older than a couple days so we might as well remake all those classics, near-classics and just really good movies from Hollywood's past. So yeah, Charade isn't perfect, but it wasn't missing that special something that screamed out "REMAKE ME!" So why remake it? Words fail me at this point. Director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Philadelphia) helms a movie that was critically panned and made barely $7 million in theaters. Let's jump in!

The reasons for struggles are pretty much across the board. A refusal to pick a tone, all style and no substance, the waste of a decent script, and some really interesting but mostly bad cases of casting. Mark Wahlberg is one of my favorite actors, but this was not a part that was cut out for him. He's playing the Cary Grant part. That's all I'm going to say about that. Mostly, the character's main goal seems to make Wahlberg look goofy. He wears a turtleneck almost the entire movie and also favors either a fedora or a very masculine beret. Yeah, that's self-explanatory in its badness. Thankfully he has decent chemistry with the very talented, very beautiful Thandie Newton. The duo makes the most of their time together on-screen, but neither delivers an especially good performance. Their fault? Director? Script? Probably a mix of all three.

The characters are just too stupid for their own good. Once Newton's Regina finds out she's in deeper than she thought, she never really questions what the mysterious Peters is up to. How does he always end up in the right place at the right time? Who's with her? Who's against her? She's perpetually frantic but never puts it all together. So who else to look for? The always sinister (when he wants to be) Tim Robbins plays Bartholamew, an American government agent/official offering his help to Regina. Ted Levine, LisaGay Hamilton and Joong-Hoon Park are three mysterious strangers tailing Regina, apparently from her dead husband's checkered and secret past. Also worth mentioning is Christine Boisson and Simon Abkarian as two Parisian detectives investigating the case.

The biggest handicapper for me was the choice of style over substance. 'Truth' never picks a tone or finds a rhythm and sticks with it. Demme's style is aggressive and unnecessary, the camera always off center and slightly ajar, characters directly addressing the camera. The mystery of what's going on should be better than it is, but that mystery gets lost in a maze of double-crosses and surprises and twists that don't work. Bad is one thing -- to be fair -- but surreal in its badness is another thing. French singer Charles Aznavour makes two appearances as himself, simply appearing and singing as if he was part of the action. The cast looks at him adoringly, the extras look on in confused fashion. Weird is fine. Weird for weirdness' sake is another not so fine reason.

My favorite stylistic choice is a tango scene. Regina dances with...well, everyone, all of the suspects and strangers passing her around a dance floor. At no point does she question why all these people are together. It's a choice that I'm assuming is meant to stylistically WOW but it goes the opposite way to the point I was groaning, even laughing at the scene. That's the entire movie. Give this one a wide berth and go revisit the original Charade instead.

The Truth About Charlie (2002): */****

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