This Distracted Globe random header image

The Truth About Charlie (2002)

July 23rd, 2007 · 2 Comments

John Huston once said: “”There is a willful lemming-like persistence in remaking past successes time after time. They can’t make them as good as they are in our memories, but they go on doing them and each time it’s a disaster. Why don’t we remake some of our bad pictures … and make them good?” This Distracted Globe recycles itself and examines the best and worst remakes.

Truth About Charlie poster 1.jpg

By Joe Valdez

Regina Lambert (Thandie Newton) returns from vacationing in Martinique with the intention of divorcing her husband, Charles. Arriving in Paris, she bumps into Joshua Peters (Mark Wahlberg), an American stranger she met in the Caribbean. Regina enters her flat to discover it totally empty, and Charles missing.

A French commandant (Christine Boisson) takes Regina to the morgue to identify Charles, notifies her that he kept multiple identities, and sold all their belongings at auction before being murdered. The money has disappeared. Joshua sets Regina up in a room at the Hotel Langlois, where three sorted characters (Joong-Hoon Park, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Ted Levine) shadow her.

Regina is summoned to a ferris wheel in the Place de la Concorde by a liaison officer (Tim Robbins) with the Office of Defense Cooperation. He reveals that Charles stole $6 million in funds from an operation, which three characters in his old unit want back. Regina learns that Joshua isn’t who he says he is, but he woos her long enough to find the money, and learn the truth about her ex-husband.

Charade pic 1.png

Jonathan Demme
had finished making Beloved, and while working on scripts for his next film, found himself watching Charade, the 1963 Cary Grant-Audrey Hepburn classic directed by Stanley Donen. Demme was eager to work again with Thandie Newton, and after picturing her in the Audrey Hepburn role, was intrigued with the idea of mixing moods and genres, as he had done memorably in Something Wild.

The screenwriters – Demme & Steve Schmidt and Peter Stone and Jessica Bendinger – took their cue from the free-wheeling films of the French New Wave, which Demme had admired as a child (Shoot The Piano Player was his favorite). Will Smith was set to star in the Cary Grant role, but shooting delays on Ali forced Demme to cast Mark Wahlberg in the part instead.

In addition to shooting the entire movie on hand held cameras in Paris, Demme cast three icons of the French New Wave – Charles Aznavour, Anna Karina and Agnes Varda – in non-speaking cameos. It was also Demme’s hope to bottle some of the energy of the new wave going on in America, with directors like Paul Thomas Anderson and Wes Anderson making unconventional new films.

Truth About Charlie pic 2.png

In order to get the film made, Demme had to cast Mark Wahlberg, and that’s part of what went wrong. Wahlberg’s presence gives the film too dark an undercurrent. He was perfect for the psycho stalker in Fear, or Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights, but is too ominous for the romantic lead in a caper. This is when you wait for Will Smith.

The Truth About Charlie is way too contrived and lacking in energy to work as an art film, and has no suspense or comedy, so it doesn’t pass the grade as an entertainment either. There’s a noticeable lack of snap, crackle and pop in the dialogue that at least made Charade watchable. The whole movie is overcast, and I don’t just mean the weather in Paris. The scene in Martinique doesn’t rate a pulse either.

Tim Robbins and Christine Boisson bring something in the way of quirkiness to their roles, at least. Rachel Portman – the first and only female composer to win an Oscar – mixed an eclectic world music score, oddly appropriate for a movie so lacking in cohesion. Peter Stone – who wrote Charade – did not support the idea of a remake, and reportedly employed the pseudonym “Peter Joshua” for the sake of preserving his royalties.

Truth About Charlie pic 1.png

“If The Truth About Charlie is his stab at original filmmaking, then that just about sums up Demme,” writes Jamie Gillies at Apollo Movie Guide.

FilmHobbit at Cinema Blend says, “The Truth About Charlie never really gets around to doing anything. Action is hinted at, but never seen. Intrigue is all around but largely ignored. Music is forced down your throat consistently, as if a substitute for actual content, but Charlie remains limp and lifeless.”

“Graceless and inelegant, the sad truth about Charlie is that while it isn’t a complete travesty, it would have been better left unmade,” says Frank Swietek at One Guy’s Opinion.

Tags: Train

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Pat Evans // Jul 28, 2007 at 8:15 am

    Remakes!!! When will they ever learn….

  • 2 matt // Jul 28, 2007 at 2:25 pm

    The Truth About Charlie was a complete mess. It didn’t really make a whole lot of sense and Tim Robbins wasn’t so much quirky as freaky-weird.

    I actually saw The Truth About Charlie before I saw Charade. That movie was a little bit of a mess as well, but so fun and romantic that you had to enjoy it. Plus, you couldn’t beat Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn with their wonderful chemistry.

Leave a Comment