Movie Review: The Truth About Charlie
Release Date: October 25, 2002
Distributor: Universal Pictures
· Jonathan Demme
· Mark Wahlberg
· Thandie Newton
by Tate Dersh
Published: April 24, 2002
EDITOR'S NOTE: Please be aware that the following review is of an incomplete work. Test screenings are just a part of the filmmaking process. This reviewer has not seen Mr. Demme's final work at the time of this article's creation.
Jonathan Demme's new film is having an identity crisis. It can't decide if it's a romantic thriller or a suspense film. After viewing an incomplete print, what is obvious to me is that the film needs to decide what it is wants to be.
Mark Wahlberg is the top billed actor in this film, but this is clearly not his movie. That honor goes to Thandie Newton. She is the one who carries the film when Wahlberg falters, and she is the one to watch. Newton plays Regina, the young and beautiful wife of the rich Charles Lambert. She comes home from a vacation to find her Parisian flat empty of furniture and full of French police who inform her that Charles is dead. What follows is an adventure on the twisting and turning streets of Paris filled with strange people from Charles's past who want something that Regina is sure she doesn't have, a police department that is suspicious of Regina, and the handsome stranger Joshua, played by Wahlberg, who shows up whenever Regina needs him most.
Playing mainly in some unnoticed films (such as "The Leading Man" with the surprisingly believable Jon Bon Jovi), Newton was exposed to the major US markets when she took two big roles in the doomed "Beloved" and the disappointing "Mission: Impossible 2." Her performance in "Charlie" is a vast departure from her role in "M:I2." Here Newton delivers an unforgettable performance, playing the fresh faced, naive Regina, with just enough street smarts to get her through. I didn't get tired of the many close shots peppered throughout the film just because of the different layers of her expressions. Newton also showed versatility when she delivered the comedic lines scattered throughout the film. Her delivery wasn't too forced or too "slap my leg, I'm being so funny." She simply responded naturally to those in the scene with her, and the result was funny without being forced or contrived.
Wahlberg is not bad as Joshua, nor does he provide an excellent performance like his cast mates. His character seems very flat and predictable, which is hard to comprehend since his character is supposed to be so multi-layered. He hinders the progress of the film. Luckily Newton and the Commandant, played by Christine Boisson, pick up the slack and keep the audience in suspense and wondering.
Boisson stands out as more than merely a
supporting role. She keeps the film grounded -- the audience isn't just watching a motley gang of people scrambling to find the truth of a dead man. There are authorities trying to figure out the matter, and Boisson further helps Regina by being Regina's mother AND father figure. This role gives Regina the support she is not getting from the romantically interested Joshua or from her lack of any apparent family in this film.
Tim Robbins is also very entertaining, with his major contribution being in his comedic scenes. Several scenes with Newton are so quick-witted and simply delivered that I almost didn't have time to laugh. He kept me on the
edge because he didn't seem quite right, which was exactly how his part should have been played.
The story was interesting and suspenseful, but a few key elements detracted
from making "The Truth About Charlie" a memorable film. First, at least two key characters had several different names in the film, and none of them were clearly defined, nor did the audience get to know just what these characters' cohorts knew about them and their different pseudonyms. Secondly, the romance between Regina and Joshua should be omitted or
downplayed to mere flirting: the romance barely developed at all over the film and not enough to make their love declarations post-ordeal believable in any way. In fact, it seems to be tacked on to satisfy the cravings of a love story for the lowest common denominator in the audience. Again, if Demme makes this romantic relationship one of flirting or lust instead, thereby leaving things unsaid and not done, the twist would add to the element of suspense of the story and be more believable.