1 item from 2002
22 October 2002 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »
Jonathan Demme's "The Truth About Charlie" is one of those movies where you have to believe everyone had a ball making the film. It's a playful, cinematic riff on Stanley Donen's 1963 "Charade", the French New Wave and the joys of making movies in Paris. The ghosts of movies past turn up at every corner, from the fashionable 16th Arrondissement to the flea market and Gare du Nord.
The movie may mystify younger moviegoers with characters and scenes that play with one's memory of characters and scenes from old movies. But Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton make likable romantic leads, the action and mystery mix as well as they did in the original and Demme has assembled a superb cast and crew that gets caught up in the spirit of the production. Yes, Universal does face something of a marketing challenge with this one. But whatever its theatrical success, "Charlie" should be a solid performer in ancillary markets as this is a film many will want to revisit.
"Charade", you may recall, has Cary Grant coming to the rescue of Audrey Hepburn, whose husband has abruptly died. A trio of sinister men, former associates of her late husband, are menacing her in the belief that she knows where her hubby, Charlie, hid a fortune they insist belongs to them. All this Hitchcock-influenced suspense takes place in a highly glamorous City of Lights, where a lilting Henry Mancini score adds to the romance.
Demme, who penned the new script with its original writer Peter Stone (writing as Peter Joshua) along with Steve Schmidt and Jessica Bendinger, wonders how that 1963 film might play were a director to employ the techniques of the New Wave, which was at its zenith in that year. Demme also has considerably reduced the age difference between the two leads and shifted the emphasis on certain elements within the structure of Stone's original well-crafted screenplay. In other words, this is a rethink as much as a remake; it's a film that pays homage to a "classic" yet wants to find new ways to entertain with the same story.
For the most part, it brilliantly succeeds. Occasionally, a change adds little, and the ending does feel off-kilter, as if Demme and company simply ran out of ideas. But the director's elliptical, tongue-in-cheek approach with fantasy sequences and witty asides allows him to explore the medium with such unmistakable relish that you can't help laughing out loud.
The film is New Wave American Style. Tak Fujimoto's restless camera is nearly always handheld, often shooting through windows or car windshields. The streets and buildings are alive with all sorts of suspicious people. Carol Littleton's editing captures the jumpy mood of French movies of that era. Demme even borrows subliminal moments pioneered in Tom Tykwer's "Run Lola Run" that give flashes of what is going on inside people's heads.
Then there are the movie's wonderful ghosts: Such New Wave icons as Charles Aznavour, Anna Karina, Agnes Varda and Magali Noel turn up in special appearances. The hotel where much of the action occurs is named the Hotel Langlois after Henri Langlois, founder of the Cinematheque Francaise. There is even a shot of Francois Truffaut's grave at the end credit roll.
Two other ghosts haunt the picture -- Hepburn and Grant. Demme's casting of Newton, whom he directed in "Beloved", is brilliant. With her long neck, lithe body, buckets of charm and strong/fragile beauty, Newton is a new-generation Hepburn. Demme even lets her deliver Hepburn's immortal line to the impossibly handsome, silver-haired Grant: "You know what's wrong with you? Absolutely nothing." Only she says this to Wahlberg, whom Demme calls the "anti-Cary Grant." Wahlberg does take the character in a different direction -- rugged, street-smart, resilient -- but like Grant, he grows quite fond of his role as knight in shining armor, especially when Newton is the lovely lady in distress.
The baddies are as wonderfully oddball as the originals. Ted Levine plays one as a hypochondriac nut. Joong-Hook Park, a popular film star and comic in South Korea, makes his character the strong but mostly silent type. Lisa Gay Hamilton is a tough girl from the projects. Tim Robbins smoothly slides into the Walter Matthau role as the seemingly helpful U.S. bureaucrat who gains Newton's trust. Christine Boisson is the no-nonsense, extremely bright police commandant.
The production has an absolute sheen. This is a different Paris than "Charade"'s yet every bit as romantic, dangerous and fun to visit.
THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE
Universal presents in association with Mediastream Film a Clinica Estetico production
Director: Jonathan Demme
Screenwriters: Jonathan Demme, Steve Schmidt, Peter Joshua, Jessica Bendinger
Based on the film "Charade", written by: Peter Stone
Executive producer: Ilona Herzberg
Director of photography: Tak Fujimoto
Production designer: Hugo Luczyc-Wyhowski
Music: Rachel Portman
Co-producers: Neda Armian, Mishka Cheyko
Costume designer: Catherine Leterrier
Editor: Carol Littleton
Joshua Peters: Mark Wahlberg
Regina Lambert: Thandie Newton
Mr. Bartholomew: Tim Robbins
Il-Sang Lee: Joong Hoon Park
Emil Zatapec: Ted Levine
Lola Jansco: Lisa Gay Hamilton
Commandant Dominique: Christine Boisson
Charles Lambert: Stephen Dillane
Running time -- 104 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
1 item from 2002
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