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Movie Review

1963's Charade (staring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn) has engrossed and tantalized viewers for decades. This remake of that enduring classic is part reincarnation, part modernization, part companion piece. Artier and more stylish than its predecessor, Charlie sometimes slavishly mimics its source material; other times it flies so far afield you wonder if it will ever find its way home again.

Regina comes home to her luxurious and expansive Paris flat to find the place stripped to the bare plaster walls and polished wood floors. Waiting for her inside is not her husband of three months, Charlie, but police commandant Jeanne Dominique. Charlie was found dead by the railroad tracks, she informs the distraught widow. A tête-à-tête down at the station would be in order, don’t you think? During the following nightmarish hours, Regina finds out more about her husband than she ever wanted to know. It seems that six million dollars have gone missing, and Charlie had them. Now the police think Regina has them. And they aren’t the only ones who think she’s hiding her husband’s ill-gotten gain. Troublemakers begin appearing out the French woodwork, trying to get to the money. Regina is beyond flustered, she’s just plain scared—of everyone. Everyone except Joshua, even though he appears at times to be following her. He’s the only person who’s trying to help her. Kind, gentle and patient, Joshua gets her settled in a hotel (her ravaged flat is unlivable) and hangs around to offer a helping hand whenever he can. From there, let’s just say things get . . . complicated.

positive elements: One woman, who Regina thinks is her enemy, pushes her to safety when a speeding car roars straight for her. That’s just the beginning of an engaging exercise in figuring out who one’s true friends are. Regina’s obvious lack of knowledge about her late husband should give couples headed for marriage a few more reasons to get to know each other first. And it would be worth discussing the idea that things are sometimes not what they seem. Are the "good" things people do always done with pure motives? Are such things still good if they rise from greed, hatred or lust? What about looks? Can someone be trusted because they look trustworthy? Or handsome? (Read 1 Samuel 16.)

sexual content: The very first scene begins with a woman getting dressed (her bare breasts are shown from the side while her thong panties are seen from behind). It’s implied that she has just had sex with Charlie on a train. Regina wears low-cut blouses exposing quite a bit of cleavage (once she’s seen in underpants and a tight tank-top). Moviegoers also watch her undressing and showering through translucent glass (shots from inside the shower are constrained to her shoulders and head). Passionate kisses are exchanged. Jeanne is seen in bed with her police partner. Tango-style dancing pairs up both men with women and women with women. On a wall is an impressionistic painting of a nude woman. Dialogue occasionally includes sexually-charged lines.

violent content: One thug who is after Regina’s money pushes a man against a wall, grabbing his crotch to intimidate and silence him. Joshua gets into fights with several men at different times during the film. Pushing, shoving and hitting result in varying degrees of injury. One final slugfest produces a fair amount of blood on Joshua and his opponent. A man is dragged down a flight of stairs, his head banging on each riser. A woman is killed when she is struck by a car (the camera zooms in on her bloody face). A man is killed when he is pushed from a moving train. A man is poisoned. Another dies of what seems to be a heart attack. An armed standoff includes the taking of a hostage. Wartime flashbacks include bloody depictions of death and injury.

crude or profane language: Two s-words. A couple of mild profanities and exclamatory uses of "My God."

drug and alcohol content: Regina gets drunk on red wine after she finds out her husband is dead. Joshua shares a glass with her while riding in a cab. Regina and Jeanne smoke cigarettes on a couple of occasions (the first time Regina does so, she gags on the smoke). When one of the thugs walks through a train’s smoking car, he begins to wheeze and choke.

conclusion: It’s impossible to remake any well-known and well-liked movie without getting deluged with bushels of rotten tomatoes. The Truth About Charlie is not going to be an exception, especially because its forerunner starred two of America’s all-time favorite actors. "No matter how you slice it, Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton are not Hepburn and Grant, two cinematic icons with chemistry galore," wrote CNN’s Paul Clinton. "The kind of spectacularly misconceived enterprise that only a sophisticated cinephile could have perpetrated," said TV Guide. See what I mean? Fetid fruit scattered all over the celluloid. As for myself, my opinion is split. No, Charlie’s not even playing in the same ballpark as Charade. But it does manage to create its own identity. The pacing is energetic and buoyant. The Parisian backdrop seems even more compelling than it did in 1963. And Mark Wahlberg looks pretty spiffy sporting a French accent and a black beret. Tim Robbins is a mere shadow of Walter Matthau (in the role of Bartholomew), but Thandie Newton did a better job than I expected, tracing Hepburn’s petite and talented footsteps. My biggest disappointment with Charlie (beside the fact that it’s injected with considerably more sexual content and gore than its predecessor) is that it takes an already confusing story and makes it unnecessarily oblique. It boasts an intriguing plot, but too many crucial details get buried or discarded in director Jonathan Demme’s reimagination. This is a mystery/romance with very little "moral to the story," so if the twists are too tangled to enjoy, there’s not much room left for raves.


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