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3 Early Test Screening Reports on Jonathan Demme's remake of the classic CHARADE called THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE!

Hey folks, Harry here... This is one of those remakes that I just never really understood. I love CHARADE to death. How could you ever hope to cast two more perfect people than Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, personally I feel that's genetically impossible. Those two are magic people, and truthfully we don't have many, if any, magic people in films today. But this was a Jonathan Demme project, and while I feel it is a thankless useless task in remaking a classic, I've been interested in it. Now remember, this is an extremely early TEST SCREENING. The film isn't due till the second week of October, and on movie like this feedback is very very valuable to the director. Especially a director as talented as Demme. So if you read these reviews, realize that this film will most likely be played with quite a bit by Demme and may even have additional scenes or 30 minutes missing. It is all in Demme's hands now! Well hopefully it is, fucking studios need to sit out this process. Ahem... Here's the reports...


Here's that review I promised you, for Demme's new film. He was there, just observing the crowd in his green hunter's coat. As for the film . . . well . . .


I have just returned from the first test screening of Jonathan Demme's remake of Stanley Donen's delightful 1963 film, Charade. That film is one of the best, scripted by Peter Stone. It has romance, charm, and wit in spades. Sadly, Demme's The Truth About Charlie has none of these.

The first problem with this film is that the lead roles, initially played by Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, are portrayed by Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton, respectively. While Grant and Hepburn had a crackling romantic dynamic, Wahlberg is woefully miscast, offering a thoroughly leaden performance for the whole show. From their very first encounter, Wahlberg's Joshua Peters and Newton's Regina Lambert produce zero chemistry. There is nothing to engage the viewer, to lead one to care about either of them, or even believe the "romance" that is supposed to be growing between the pair. George Clooney is the only actor who could even begin to fill Cary Grant's drip-dry suit, and as my friend noted, he already did that in Out of Sight, which is far more deserving of the mantle of the modern Charade. Thandie Newton is fine; that is to say that she does nothing wrong in her part. It is simply that the material she is presented is relentlessly devoid of passion, suspense, or tension of any kind. The only two performances in the film that are truly bad are those from Mark Wahlberg and Tim Robbins. Robbins, assuming the role played by Walter Matthau in the original, is awful--his character is set up as the dramatic and emotional lynchpin in the climactic scene, and it all comes to naught. Robbins even apes Matthau's speech patterns, to (unintentional) comedic effect.

While Charade was scripted by Peter Stone, The Truth About Charlie is "inspired by the motion picture screenplay" by Stone. The film itself is written by Demme, along with Steve Schmidt and one other writer whose name now escapes me. The banter between Grant and Hepburn is wonderful, and is nowhere to be found here. There are a couple of instances where the dialogue nods back to the original, but to no effect.

When Audrey Hepburn said "Do you know what's wrong with you? ... Absolutely nothing," to Cary Grant, the line is at once witty and terribly romantic. When Thandie Newton says the same to Mark Wahlberg, the viewer has seen nothing to evoke such sentiment from her. As such, the dialogue plays through with no weight whatsoever. Charade is also a great suspense picture, often touted as the greatest Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock never made. The ending of the original is drastically altered, seemingly for the sole purpose of extracting any suspense from the story.

Matthau's Carson Dyle is a bitter, vicious man fully capable of murder. Tim Robbins has an illogical turn in his thought process towards the end of the film that makes no sense, and is painfully trite. The final act of the film should have the audience concerned for the welfare of Regina Lambert, but at no time is there any real sense of peril or danger.

Finally, the direction by Jonathan Demme is overly stylized, for no reason connected to the narrative, and he doesn't even stick with any single style. There are *many* scenes where the camera is needlessly jittery, and Tak Fujimoto's cinematography manages to waste the setting of Paris. The film strikes as though Demme wanted to make an action picture, with his slam cuts and obviously handheld camera. However, interspersed between these scenes are also realistically staged scenes, and the juxtaposition of these styles only serves to draw the viewer out of the narrative. The very last segment of the film, after the climax, involves a sequence that goes completely against the style and nature of anything the viewer has heretofore been shown.

In closing, anyone who is fond of Charade ought to stay away from The Truth About Charlie. Dry, limp, and uninteresting, this is another pointless remake of a wonderful film. Call me . . . Andrew Repasky McElhinney.

Here's the most positive of the reviews...

I was lucky enough to attend a test screening of "The Truth About Charlie," Jonathan Demme‚s remake of Stanley Donen's "Charade," in Philadelphia On Tuesday, 04/09. The picture looked nearly finished, with only some misplaced music cues and less-than-stellar print quality marring it from a technical standpoint.

The story borrows most of the major plot points of Peter Stone's script for "Charade." Those unfamiliar with that film should know both it and "...Charlie" deal with a young woman (Audrey Hepburn originally, now Thandie Newton) living in Paris who crosses paths with a debonair stranger (Cary Grant originally, Mark Wahlberg here) and a gaggle of criminals, cops, and federal agents (embodied by, among others, Tim Robbins, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Ted Levine, and Joon Park-Hyun). All this comes about by way of her recently deceased husband, the titular Charlie. He had his hands on a vast number of diamonds that have disappeared, and everyone suspects his widow holds the key to their whereabouts. Delving much deeper would threaten to give away the twists the story thrives on; suffice to say that except for the heroine Regina (Newton), no one is what they seem.

Overall, the picture came off well enough. Audience reaction seemed positive, with no walkouts and only a few sequences garnering unintentional laughs. Demme's direction had a calculated looseness to it that matched the story well, and was a welcome change from the more weighted looks of his last few (much more serious-minded) pictures. The temp soundtrack was a hodgepodge of French and American pop, and proved to be a highlight. One can only hope it'll make it through to the final cut.

Wahlberg seemed a little uncomfortable slipping into Grant's suave shoes. His taut facial features and New Yawk accent (hidden with intermittent success) too heavily belied his 'kind stranger' act. Newton is no Audrey Hepburn (but who is?), however she fared a little better and made for another strong Demme heroine (don't forget this IS the man who brought us "Caged Heat," "Silence of the Lambs," "Beloved"). To his credit, Demme has assembled a great supporting cast, and the rogue trio of Levine, Gay Hamilton, and Park-Hyun is a lot of fun to watch (pity they didn't score more screen time as a unit).

Tak Fujimoto's lensing was almost too freewheeling for its own good. Certain scenes that should've played more seriously were undermined by the constant snapping of the camera back and forth between characters and unnecessary Dutch-angle cuts. There was far too much motion within the compositions, and frequent transitions composed of time-lapsed footage of Paris only made matters worse. Some sequences did come off well however, such as a brief stop at a club where all of the major characters surfaced on the dance floor to try and entice Newton to divulge information. The most kinetic sequence was a superbly crafted late-game race to Newton's apartment between Wahlberg and Park- Hyun (the Korean superstar of "Nowhere to Hide" fame, garnering a surprising amount of screen time and acquitting himself quite well in his first English-language role).

Throughout the picture, Demme's subtle handling of material that bordered on being overly ironic or too unrealistic (in particular the dance sequence and the occasional appearances and songs by a Parisian crooner named Avazaro (I think)) saved the day, and on many occasions elicited applause from the audience. "...Charlie" has enough charm going for it, but offers little in the way of anything we haven't seen before. What made the original "Charade" so much fun was that is came during a cycle of hard-edged spy pics (including the first few James Bond offerings) and worked to deconstruct their tenets. Here, it isn't hard to get the feeling of talent spinning in endless circles. How much the film will change between now and its eventual release date is unsure, but in this form it has the makings of an enjoyable 2 hours of escapism, if nothing else.

Meanwhile, Reno's Freudian slip in misnaming the film, might have had a clue as to his overall opinion of the film...

Hey Harry, Reno here with a report on this evening's test screening of THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE held in Philadelphia. Why the City of Brotherly Love you may ask? Well, it seems that director Jonathan Demme wanted to see how his new flick played in his old hometown.

And what, you may ask, is THE TROUBLE WITH CHARLIE, all about? Well, a wealthy woman returns to her Paris home from vacation with the intent of divorcing her husband only to find he's up and gotten himself murdered. Aided by a mysterious and charming stranger and hounded by three sinister strangers, she tries to unravel the reason why her husband was killed and what is the treasure that he was killed over.

Sound familiar? Of course it does, if you‚ve seen Stanley Donen's CHARADE with Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn than you've seen this movie. Yes, it's another remake folks, with Mark Wahlberg in the Cary Grant role and Thandie Newton taking over the Audrey Hepburn part.

But while most remakes are taking the source material are mutating them beyond all recognition in the name of 're-imaging,' CHARLIE stays fairly faithful to the original story. So much so, in fact, that there are no real surprises for anyone who has seen the original. But then again, seeing as how the original was made in 1965, I would guarantee that a majority of this film's target audience (ages 25-35 I would guess due to its lack of wall to wall rock music soundtrack) probably haven't seen the original.

To be sure, there are a few changes- Josh Newton's confrontation with one of the three nominal bad guys has been changed from a roof top fight to a bit of cat and mouse on a train. Unfortunately, its resolution doesn't play as well as in the original. Demme has also included a new character in the form of Charlie's crazed mother. If she was added as a red herring to the storyline, she doesn't work very well. Fortunately, she's only in the film for a few scenes and only one is pivotal to the plot. (Though she does provide a bit of denouement in a scene during the film's closing credits.) Another Demme addition that works better is the beefing up of the police inspector character, so much so the she (as opposed to being a he in the original) takes an active part in the finale.

My biggest gripe is that Demme is a little too slavish to the source material. I was hoping that someone of his caliber would bring a new twist or two to the material.

But I know what some of you may be thinking? How are Wahlberg and Newton? Do they fill the mighty big shoes of Grant and Hepburn? Well, yes and no. Newton is absolutely charming and a genuine delight, considering I thought her performance in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 was fairly bland. Wahlberg is as good as he can get, but he's never impressed me as having the charisma for pulling off the charm and suave sophistication that the role really demands. Fortunately, Newton works hard and manages to pull him up most of the time.

I don't want to give the impression that the film was all bad. There are several things to recommend it. Tim Robbins is great as a government agent. The script is entertaining and will keep the initiated guessing and those of us familiar with the original will get a kick out of spotting some of the dialog from the original that's been transplanted. There's also a nice tribute to Truffaut that adds a slightly bizarre tone to the last minute and a half of the film, but yet oddly doesn't detract.

RENO out.

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