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Mon October 28, 2002
The Truth about Charlie
The success of the film, then and now, rests with the leads, and they failed.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
So Cary grant and Audrey Hepburn are unfortunately dead. That means director Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") must find suitable replacements for his remake of "Charade" called "The Truth about Charlie." Will Smith was his first choice-Mark Wahlberg ("Planet of the Apes") took the Grant role. Thandi Newton ("Mission Impossible 2") plays Hepburn's role. Neither carries the film, which requires a certain amount of international sophistication and charm.
Set in Paris, "The Truth about Charlie" starts with a murder and the victim's money, which everyone seems to want. It has touches of the old American love of Paris, e.g., the tower appears regularly. But it is a more modern Paris than the original film's: Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto ("Signs" "The Silence of the Lambs") said, "We wanted to make the city feel mysterious and scary. We wanted it overcast and gray-different from the traditional view of Paris, more realistic, more paranoid."
A Ferris-wheel scene with Wahlberg and Tim Robbins, who reprises the Walter Matthau role, evokes the mystery and danger of Sir Carol Reed's "Third Man." That most American of images, the incarcerated Hannibal Lecter, ends the film with a fitting tribute to his invulnerability.
Back to Wahlberg and Newton. The success of the film, then and now, rests with the leads, and they failed. Wahlberg is flat, expressionless, 2 dimensional. Newton lacks the acting chops to navigate the aftershocks of a husband's murder and the barrage of interest in his money, hidden somewhere in plain sight. Robbins comes closest to a screen presence, part mountebank, part protector, and part enigma.
The original title "Charade" better expresses the delicious ambiguity of European intrigue where nothing is as it seems, and people are not what they appear. In this regard, "Charlie" fulfills the promise. For a modern look, it also succeeds.
But in an overall comparison between the 2 films, "Charlie" is the imposter-no ambiguity intended.
John DeSando co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time" and vice chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus.