In Hollywood, good premises are hard to find—especially now, during summer, the time of profitable franchises and proven formulas. So when a film offers a hint of something different, it's hard not to get excited—stimulated by the mere idea of anything not made of the same stuff that's in 99 percent of America's multiplexes.
The Lake House's premise isn't just good, it's great: Based on the 2000 South Korean film Siworae, it follows Alex (Keanu Reeves) and Kate (Sandra Bullock), both of whom live in a beautiful, Frank Lloyd Wright-esque house that's made almost entirely of glass, and sits, perched on stilts, above a lake. Weird thing is, Alex and Kate aren't living there at the same time—they communicate through letters, and as far as they can tell, Kate's living in 2006, while Alex is in 2004. Once Alex and Kate get over the impossible, creepy idea that their house is linking them through time, an inevitable romance begins—and for a while, The Lake House trades in both concepts of spacetime and Hollywood cliché. Part romance, part mystery, part sci-fi, and part treatise on architectural aesthetics, watching the first 45 minutes of The Lake House is an unexpectedly lonely and engaging experience.
But even when good premises are found in Hollywood, now's not the time of the year to do anything with them. At the halfway point, director Alejandro Agresti and screenwriter David Auburn bewilderingly suck the life out of their film—abandoning themes, switching tones, ignoring logic, and turning a once-promising story into something embarrassingly stupid and syrupy. At first glance, The Lake House is a lot like its architecturally stunning setting—a novel construction, imaginatively conceived and gracefully carried out. But once you've spent some time there, it shows what it really is—a shitty, pre-fabricated, bland box stuck in the midst of a spiritless Suburbia. In other words, it looks nice from the outside—and it's the last place you want to spend any time.