We cannot tell a lie
'Truth' remake just can't hold up
The sweeping, tilting camerawork in Jonathan Demme's 'The Truth About Charlie' is supposed to call to mind the French new wave stylings of directors such as Franois Truffaut, Claude Chabrol and Alain Resnais.
To an extent, it works, but so many other things in the film don't work that it doesn't really matter.
'Truth' is yet another remake of a perfectly fine movie that should have been left alone Ñ in this case, Stanley Donen's delightful 1963 romantic thriller, 'Charade,' which starred charismatic film icons Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Demme's version recasts the roles with considerably less charismatic actors Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton.
Newton plays Regina Lambert, a bride living in Paris who learns that her recently deceased, art-dealer hubby wasn't at all what he claimed to be. The Hitchcock-influenced story is riddled with twists as Regina becomes entangled with a number of dangerous characters in the City of Lights.
A trio of her husband's sinister associates (Ted Levine, Joong-Hoon Park and Lisa Gay Hamilton) is looking for a fortune that they insist belongs to them. A suspicious police commandant (Christine Boisson) thinks Regina can lead the authorities to her husband's killer. And a charming stranger (Wahlberg) has conveniently turned up just when Regina needs him the most Ñ but who is he, really?
There are a lot of delicious touches for film buffs: French icons Charles Aznavour, Magali No‘l, Anna Karina and Agns Varda pop up at unexpected moments, and the name of Regina's hotel, the Hotel Langlois, honors the founder of Cinematheque Francais. And cinematographer Tak Fujimoto's homage to new wave techniques Ñ mostly handheld shots, moving up and down streets, through windshields and doorways Ñ is clever, creating a nervy feel of constant motion.
But that same shooting technique occasionally can feel campy, like all the tilted, 'ooh, we're off balance' shots that unfortunately call to mind the old 'Batman' TV show. And that constant movement, especially on trains and subways, can be nauseating. Shots that indicate flashes of memory, used brilliantly in Tom Tykwer's 'Run Lola Run,' feel like they're inserted because Demme doesn't think the audience is smart enough to keep up with the plot.
The film's real weakness, though, is the casting. A glamorous homage like 'Truth' demands big-time movie stars who drench the screen with personality. Newton is very pretty and a perfectly fine actress, but she lacks real screen presence. Wahlberg pulls off the suave act nicely in the beginning of the film but gets stiffer and more wooden as the story progresses. Putting him in a fedora doesn't make him any more debonair or a better actor.
There are similar problems with lesser characters. Levine ('Silence of the Lambs') is a terrific actor, but he pales in comparison to 'Charade's' baddies, James Coburn and George Kennedy. Ditto for Tim Robbins as the American bureaucrat created by Walter Matthau. The actors just don't have the same visceral impact as their predecessors.
Demme is a good director, and 'Truth' isn't a bad movie. But for a real cinematic treat, rent the original 'Charade,' a film so vibrant it's a mystery why anyone would attempt to re-create the experience.