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'Truth About Charlie, The'

A stylish romp through Paris

Friday, October 25, 2002

By Ron Weiskind Post-Gazette Movie Editor

"The Truth About Charlie" is all style, no substance -- but, oh, what style!

Mark Wahlberg plays the Cary Grant role in "The Truth About Charlie," based on the classic "Charade." (Ken Regan, Camera 5)

How could it be otherwise? The movie is, in director Jonathan Demme's words, "the loving stepchild" of the 1963 Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn charmer "Charade," which traded in large part upon the charm of its stars.

Demme's motivations had to do with everything but story -- a light vehicle to showcase the gorgeous Thandie Newton, a chance to film in Paris, a desire to merge French New Wave sensibilities with the frenetic modern style of filmmaking practiced by Tom Tykwer, Wong Kar-wai and others.

The movie follows the plot line of its predecessor but plays with the relationships. Newton is Regina Lambert, who returns from vacation to find her Paris apartment ransacked and to learn that her husband, Charlie (Stephen Dillane, seen primarily in flashbacks), has been murdered.

' The Truth About Charlie'

RATING: PG-13 for some violence and sexual content/nudity.

STARRING: Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg, Tim Robbins.

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Demme.

OFFICIAL SITE: www.thetruthaboutcharlie.com


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A portentous American official, Mr. Bartholomew (Tim Robbins), tells her what she didn't know about her husband and about how some of the dead man's former colleagues (played by Ted Levine, Joong-Hoon Park and Lisa Gay Hamilton) are searching for a large amount of money that they believe he owed them. They're sure Regina must know something about it.

Taking it upon himself to protect her is Joshua Peters (Mark Wahlberg), whom she met supposedly by chance while on vacation and who, like her, happens to live in Paris and happens to bump into her just when she needs him.

Obviously, he's not telling her everything. In fact, Regina is one of the few people in the film who turns out to be just whom she says she is. The story goes through its twists and turns -- some of them clever, some of them confusing. One key difference from "Charade": In that one, Hepburn fell head over heels for Grant. In this one, Wahlberg goes goo-goo for Newton -- and who can blame him?

Newton has the grace, beauty and elegance to essay a Hepburn role, but Mark Wahlberg, you're no Cary Grant. Neither is anyone else. Wahlberg may look silly in a beret, but I grew to think of him not as Grant but as an American B-movie baby-faced tough-guy type of the 1940s or '50s -- Elisha Cook Jr. crossed with Richard Jaeckel. That comparison is easier to swallow.

But Demme compensates for the deficiency in savoir-faire from his leading man by putting the sizzle into the look and sound of the film. The movie adores Paris, but not so much the picture-postcard version of the city as its grittier, more intriguing corners. Cinematographer Tak Fujimoto often uses hand-held cameras bulling through scenes as if on amphetamines and infuses the film with energy.

But the references to French New Wave exist not just in cutting techniques but also in homage form. Charles Aznavour, the world-weary crooner who starred in Francois Truffaut's "Shoot the Piano Player," pops up from time to time as if to comment on the action in song. Other icons of the movement -- actress Anna Karina, director Agnes Varda among them -- get cameos that often have no other purpose but to add atmosphere and offer a salute to the influence of the New Wave.

In other words, "The Truth About Charlie" revels in the pure joy of filmmaking, inviting the audience to enjoy the ride and not worry too much about the mechanics. Sounds good -- and looks good -- to me.

Ron Weiskind can be reached at rweiskind@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.

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