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The Truth About Charlie / Charade

Made the mistake on this one of watching the original version, 1963's Charade immediately before watching this remake. The DVD of The Truth About Charlie includes Charade on the flip-side, and I decided, hey! Double feature. Sounds good in theory, but in reality, I came off watching Charade and remembering what a great movie it is (I hadn't seen it for a while), and went straight to watching The Truth About Charlie, which I should have realized probably wouldn't live up to its predecessor. It didn't.

The beginning was fairly similar, and I was encouraged that they might have kept the wonderful atmosphere that made the original so great. Even some of the dialogue was the same. But before long, it went off on its own direction, while still keeping some story elements. But the beginning elements of Charade set up things that would happen later in the story. By leaving them there in Charlie, they set up for things that were not kept in the story, and thus seem pointless. Granted, there were parts in Charade that weren't strictly related to the plot (the hilarious scene of Cary Grant showering with all his clothes on, for example), but added greatly to the humor and originality of it. Modern movies have lost this whimsy and ability to have non-plot-related scenes that add to rather than detract from the overall film.

The villains in Charlie aren't really villains. By trying to make them sympathetic (they are even inducted into the heroine's "group" at one point, all of them working together to find out what Charlie had been up to, rather than keeping them trying to kill her), the filmmakers completely neutered them. One of them lives, and is essentially on the good guys side by the end. It isn't scary. It isn't disturbing. The villains in Charade may have been cartoony, in a certain sense, but they were psychotic on another level. And Jonathan Demme can't seem to decide what style he wants to use. Sometimes he tries to emulate the 1960s look of the original, other times he draws from other styles, like the one he used so effectively in Silence of the Lambs. More often, he opts for slightly off-balance, hand-held camera, slow-motion, dream-like states where the music takes over and there are no sound effects hardly at all, or very muted ones. The story is good enough without all this trickery. It doesn't need to be dressed up, and the attempts merely distract.

Thandie Newton does a fine job stepping into Audrey Hepburn's shoes--very difficult shoes to fill. Unfortunately, Mark Wahlberg cannot keep up with her following Cary Grant. He's not enough of an actor for it, and even more importantly, he's not enough of a star for it. When Audrey Hepburn falls for Cary Grant within five minutes of meeting him, it somehow doesn't require an extraordinary amount of suspension of disbelief. And when she continues to love him, despite learning that he's lied to her over and over, it somehow doesn't seem wrong. But when Newton acts the same way toward Wahlberg, it had me going "Um, I'd ask him a bunch more questions before going any further, girl." There are few actors today who could pull off the role. Possibly Harrison Ford.

I had hopes that the film might add something modern and fresh to the story. Instead, it took away the heart of it, and replaced it with...nothing.