“Truth” doesn’t measure up

Ted Pigeon

I wonder if anyone on the filmmaking crew of “The Truth About Charlie” told Mark Wahlberg that he was playing a character formerly played by Cary Grant. Wahlberg has been horribly miscast as the role Grant perfected in this remake of the 1963 classic, “Charade.” Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn lit up the screen in the original, a quirky and very entertaining comedy-mystery in the tradition of Hitchcock. Now, almost 40 years later, veteran filmmaker Jonathan Demme has decided to remake a classic of an earlier day, and although actress Thandie Newton hit the mark as the Hepburn character, the casting of Wahlberg simply vexes the audience, not to mention that his chemistry with Newton is almost non-existent. But the poor casting for “The Truth About Charlie” isn’t the only problem with the film, as Demme has somehow managed to remake one of the greatest movies into a dull, almost lifeless film that is so bent on being visually clever that it forgets to be fun and entertaining like the film that inspired it.

Newton plays Regina Lambert, a somewhat innocent woman who discovers that her late husband was an international spy who stole $6 million. Against her will, Lambert becomes wrapped up in the escalating situation where all kinds of people are trying to find the money for themselves.

She first encounters Joshua Peters, played by Wahlberg, who appears to be helping her, but as the plot unfolds she finds herself not able to trust anybody. When she begins to doubt him, she consults an American government agent by the name of Bartholomew, played by Tim Robbins. But she soon realizes that he cannot be trusted either.

One major difference between “The Truth About Charlie” and “Charade” is that the latter film is actually fun and energetic. Every time the story takes a ridiculous turn and reveals something unexpected about the plot or characters, we laugh and enjoy it. It’s the kind of movie in which plot really doesn’t matter because it’s all atmosphere and pure entertainment. Attempting to follow the intricate details of “Charade” takes away from the fun, since the story itself doesn’t bear close scrutiny and is not meant to. It’s a fun little ride highlighted by the chemistry between Hepburn and Grant. “Charlie,” on the other hand, has all the same plot twists and ridiculous character revelations; except one crucial detail is missing … it’s not fun.

While some critics might call them artistic, the quick edits and hand-held camera shots make this movie feel like a student-made film. Demme, responsible for Oscar-winning films such as “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Philadelphia,” loves to fill his movies with many visual trademarks, such as when the characters look directly into the camera as if it’s the person with whom they are speaking. All of that is in this film, along with the ever-moving camera. Accompanied by a rhythmic soundtrack comprised of a few songs and a new age score (which is light years behind Henry Mancini’s amazingly original jazz score), the images come across as dizzying rather than mesmerizing, and needlessly so. Though I’m sure many people who might find these “artistic” decisions by filmmakers to be innovative and creative, all the visual gags are simply inconsequential, much like the film itself.

Perhaps I am being too hard on “The Truth About Charlie.” Maybe I would have liked it more had I not seen “Charade,” a film that I have come to relish. I don’t expect all remakes and sequels to be exactly like their predecessors, because I love when a remake or sequel explores new ground and takes a different perspective. I do, however, expect remakes to be in the same spirit of the originals and do them justice. Capturing the essence of the original film is the most important goal of any remake. “The Truth About Charlie” is a mere shadow of the film that inspired it, incorporating all the same plot twists and story basics but lacking the unique flavor and spirit that make “Charade” the great movie that it is.

It’s a horrendous feeling knowing that some of today’s best filmmakers remake older classics into less-than-mediocre films. Soon, some established filmmaker like Gus van Sant will come along and do a remake of “Psycho,” turning another one of the best movies of the ’60s into a film as bad as this one … what an unthinkable thought. Oh wait, that already happened too.