The Truth About Charlie

Truth About Charlie

She's lovely, but this is still utter crap

dir: Jonathan Demme


Whilst cinemas around the world have been awash in the stench of remakes for as long as I can remember, it appears that recent years have been even more prone to the epidemic than ever. Almost as bad as the pernicious outbreak of sequelitis that afflicts contemporary moviemaking, not just Hollywood, is the self-pleasuring / self-consuming process of remaking decent films into crap contemporary movies. I’m not sure that’s the actual business model used, but it seems eerily accurate in terms of results.

The producers of the DVD for this here waste of polycarbonate and chrome make a fatal error in the packaging of the release, at least the Region 4 version that I got to see. The two disk set contains, as well, in the spirit of giving you more bang for your buck, the original film that The Truth About Charlie is based on; Charade. In doing so they make the film they’re actually trying to sell look even worse. The Truth About Charlie is a bad film in its own right. In comparison to Charade, which they helpfully provide as the ideal comparison point, it is downright dire. In truth the film stinks in comparison to just about anything.

The current king of remakes is without doubt but with much confusion, Marky Mark Wahlberg. Famous mostly for being a much ridiculed bad rapper and having a brother that was a member of New Kids on the Block, Mark Wahlberg’s heart’s desire seems to be to star only in remakes. There was the Planet of the Apes remake, where he looked bad in comparison to Charlton Heston, of all people, and was outacted by people in monkey suits, and various bits of furniture. There’s the Italian Job remake, where he looks bad in comparison even to Benny Hill from the original film, and is out-acted by Ed Norton’s paedophilic mustache.

Now, much to the eternal shame of director Jonathan Demme, Mark E Mark stinks up the joint in this utterly pointless remake, and is outacted not only by everyone in the film, who are all terrible anyway, but by his own hat. The beret he wears at one point has more charisma, style and poise than he could ever manage even if they plundered Cary Grant’s grave for some spare DNA and forcibly inject it into him. To be fair to Wahlberg, or at least give the appearance of fairness, everyone comes off looking bad. As much as I initially wanted to give the flick the benefit of the doubt, less than halfway through it I just realised ‘this film is ridiculous’ and gave up any hope of the film being salvaged by any plot twist or some random nudity.

Thandie Newton is a beautiful, competent actress who could possibly have filled the exquisite high heels of Audrey Hepburn had the film allowed her natural charm and grace to shine through. Instead the film makes her look dopier than the people around her, which renders it hard to like or care about her. As the dumber elements of the plot transform from ‘farce’ to ‘idiocy’, and as Demme indulges in cost effective ‘experimental’ shot setups and techniques (read: forced to use digital video by budget constraints) the movie gets incrementally worse with time.

The plot from the original is used pretty much straight, except keen for some reason for a ‘clean’ experience they dullify several aspects of the story to make it so damn beige that your grandmother could watch it and say “Damn, that’s a fucking bland piece of crap”. That is if your gran actually talks like that, which presumably she doesn’t. Unless, like mine, she was a bootlegger and a bordello madam back when these things mattered. The mouth on her!

The original, for all its faults genuinely achieved three things, at the very least: it used tone appropriately (it knew when to be funny and when to be serious, simply put), it had that Golden Age ‘chemistry’ between its two leads, (despite, or maybe because of, the fact that one of them was profoundly gay) and it genuinely held surprises for the first time viewer.

The remake gets nothing right. The plot, regarding people’s actual identities is the height of banality, the villains aren’t particularly villainous, the actors portraying most of the characters looked like they were grateful for their payment in air fares to France, but that they really wanted to go home now, and, fitting perfectly in such a misfired project the ending fizzles out leaving us not only unsatisfied but angry.

Coincidences remains unexplained and characters accept everything at face value in order to keep the poor script chugging along. We are meant to accept that Wahlberg’s name-changing character is what he seems to be: a charming man-about-town who happens to appear magically whenever anything remotely interesting happens to our heroine Regina. I’ve submitted tax returns that have been more believable. In the original perhaps the Reggie character seemed a tad naïve, a bit trusting. In the current version the character seems nothing less than lobotimised. More and more characters are piled on in a manner that tries to hide the hollowness at the core of the film and never succeeds.

Instead of me listing each person involved in the film and simply saying ‘they sucked’ after their names, let’s just imagine that I did. That way we both save some time, and I get to focus on my perplexity as to how Jonathan Demme could be involved with this stinker. Actors, whether you like them or not, decide to sign on to a project for a host of reasons, obviously not knowing how crappy it could potentially work out to be in advance. You would have to expect that Demme, as director, screenwriter and producer of the project would have to have a clearer idea of just how much this was going to suck. Clearly he either overestimated his ability to get decent performances from these people or overestimated the tolerance level of an audience for his woeful homage to French New Wave cinema. Having Agnes Varda, famed director turn up in a cameo just makes it all even more insulting for all involved. Especially the mugs in the audience.

Honestly, one wonders what has happened to Demme. He’s made some great films over the years, and this has to be the absolute low point. Compare the guy that made this movie with the one that made Silence of the Lambs, or Philadelphia or even Caged Heat, for Christ’s sake, and you’d swear it couldn’t be the same man. Who knows, maybe his next film The Manchurian Candidate, another goddamn remake, will be better. I am certainly not going to hold my own or anyone else’s breath on that one. The inability of contemporary Hollywood to come up with any original ideas and to continue to plunder the back catalogue of movies out of a lack of originality and risk aversion long ago ceased to amaze me.

I could keep on and on, but that would waste valuable electrons, kilobytes and swear words. Suffice to say this is a terrible, pointless film with no redeeming features. It doesn’t need to be watched by anyone, for any reason. I can’t picture Jonathan Demme, Wahlberg or Thandie Newton ever kicking back at home with a beer in one hand and the remote in the other after popping this travesty into the DVD player. And if they’re not ever going to watch it again, out of sheer embarrassment or for the host of other artistic and intellectual failures that the movie represents, why should you?

1 order of magnitude that I hated this flick with the white, hot fury of a thousand dying suns out of 10