October 31, 2002

Lost Tango in Paris

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The Truth About Charlie is a remake of the 1963 thriller Charade starring Carey Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Looking at their modern replacements, it was obvious that Jonathan Demme, the directorial master behind Silence of the Lambs and Philadelphia, had his hands full. Mark Wahlberg replaces Carey Grant as Joshua Peters and Thandie Newton, the exotic cutie from Mission Impossible 2, takes Hepburn’s role as Regina Lambert.

The plot is complexly simple. Opening with the murder of Regina’s husband, Charlie, the widow is shortly thereafter encountered by Joshua Peters and a number of other dangerous characters. All of them want the money that Regina’s husband apparently stole from them yet Regina has no idea where the money is or how these people are connected to her husband. Regina is manipulated far too much in this film. Though she is being ‘played’ by different sides, her character allows too much to happen to her without fighting back or simply just getting the hell out of Paris. The plot of the movie makes a lot more sense in hindsight, and that is exactly why this movie fails. The suspense is never there because the story never develops. Everything is solved and made sense of in the last few scenes. Some movies, like Memento, Fight Club, and The Sixth Sense accomplish this dangerous move, but it works in these movies because they were entertaining all the way up until their pivotal endings. Charlie simply isn’t entertaining and the last few scenes emit an “oh” at best while the three movies in comparison blow your mind away.

The acting of the two main players is the beginning of the end for Charlie. Marky Mark has less charm than Hannibal Lecter and Thandie Newton’s character is poorly developed and her questionable actions make the film somewhat annoying and pathetic. Demme craftily uses his skills and some scenes are brilliantly done. The vast majority of the movie takes place in Paris and the film gives off a unique European aura. Obviously, the movie tries to mystify the audience by revealing very little. But nothing in the story ever resembles a goal or a meaning. It varies between an awkward and unrealistic love story while shifting back and forth to the search for six million bucks worth of diamonds. The characters in search of the diamonds are unnecessarily vague and, though it is understood that we’re not supposed to know anything about them, they provide no suspense or growth to the movie’s plot. The soundtrack of the movie was even more dull and inappropriate. All in all, there were a few good things about this movie. But when you look at the big convoluted mess that is The Truth About Charlie, it is as easy to miss those few good qualities as it is difficult to be entertained.

Archived article by Dan Cohen