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The Truth About Charlie

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Truth About Charlie

Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton
Director: Jonathan Demme
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: October 2002
Genres: Comedy, Romance, Suspense

*Also starring: Tim Robbins, Christine Boisson, Jim Brooks, Ted Levine, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Stephen Dillane

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

Jonathan Demme's loose remake of the 1963 romantic thriller "Charade" has been titled "The Truth About Charlie," but perhaps Demme should have named his feature "Thandie Newton." Everything revolves around the 30-year-old Zambia-born actress who made a name for herself as a ghost in "Besieged" and who was picked up by John Woo for an altogether different role in "Mission Impossible 2." In looking longingly at the stunning and classy performer, Tak Fujimoto's lens has the competition of virtually every man who sets eyes on her. She turns more heads than does Mark Wahlberg who, truth to tell, is too bland to be cast as an action hero with more than a passing knowledge of French, with a role so ill-defined and a flirtation with Ms. Newton so gentlemanly that we can scarcely believe our ears when he declares his love for her.

The plot is a bubbly one, not meant to be taken seriously and, in fact, one can almost see some of the alleged hoodlums winking at the camera. We can but assume that Stanley Donen's "Charade," on which this film is based, gained popularity as one of the country's 200 greatest movies simply on the charm of Cary Grant, the smoothest actor of all time, and Audrey Hepburn, the most angelic.

The convoluted yarn which gradually reveals to us the truth about Charlie (Charles Lambert, played by Stephen Dillane), a truth that everyone but Ms. Newton in the role of Regina Lambert and everyone in the audience who has not seen "Charade" knows. A man is murdered on a sleek European train leaving six million dollars whose location is thought to be known by his widow, Regina (Thandie Newton). While Regina is pursued in Paris by the sinister Il-Sang Lee (Joong-Hoon Park), Emil Zadapec (Ted Levine), and Lola Jansco (Lisa Gay Hamilton), Regina's only hope for safety lies in the hands of a man she met on holiday in Martinique, Joshua Peters (Mark Wahlberg), and an agent of the American Embassy, Mr. Bartholomew (Tim Robbins).. Ironically, Regina is the one who knows least of all, though Paris Police Commandant Dominique (Christine Boisson) considers her the prime suspect in Charles's murder.

This is not a faithful remake of "Charade": Jonathan Demme wants us merely to recall that classic as he deletes some of that film's characters and changes Paris from a City of Light to a place where cobblestone streets and the Eiffel Tower contrast with dark alleys and souks populated by emigres from North Africa. As in the vast majority of romantic movies, the lead couple are held at arm's length until the conclusion and, in fact, we are never quite sure that the two will connect in any way but as a superficially flirtatious duo. While we root for Regina called Reggie by Joshua if only to prove that he's American the real star of this thriller is the music. Demme treats us to a brief segment of Charles Aznavour from "Shoot the Piano Player," then revives him to romance the couple as though to prove that Regina and Joshua really connect. The soundtrack is loaded with French, North African and English melodies including "Charade D'Amour," "Sous Le Soleil Exactement," "N''Sel Fik" and "Hey Natty." Watch especially for hot rendition of the tango danced in a parlor where the custom is to change partner's every minute or so. If the truth about the dance can be told, the only genuine chemistry is between Lola (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and Regina as the two zip around the floor, Ms. Hamilton's eyes glued to the wonderful Ms.Newton.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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