Directed by Jonathan Demme. Starring Thandie Newton, Mark Wahlberg and Tim Robbins.
The plot of 'The Truth About Charlie' is the stuff of classic 50s movies. A newly-wed woman returns home to find her husband missing, her apartment destroyed and various mysterious strangers taking serious interest in her husband’s belongings.
This tale of espionage, mystery and romance has all the ingredients you would think necessary for success; good-looking charismatic actors, taut editing and pace and that most evocative of settings, the streets of Paris.
The film is based on Stanley Donen’s 1963 thriller 'Charade', which in turn was a pastiche of Hitchcock. How many layers of post-modernity do you want from a movie? The result is definitely an attempted update of Hitchcock and 'The Truth About Charlie' has a nostalgic quality that is either dated or referential, depending on your point of view.
This kind of movie relies heavily on good chemistry between the two lead actors. Thandie Newton, who bravely tried to outshine the explosions in 'Mission Impossible', and Mark Wahlberg ('Boogie Nights', 'Three Kings') take the Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant roles and inevitably both suffer by comparison.
Wahlberg’s strengths as an actor are his physical presence and a gauche vulnerability. As an urbane, duplicitous charmer he is a disaster, more like a frat-house thug than a secret agent. Although Newton is beautifully photogenic, her simpering performance hardly matches up to Audrey Hepburn’s bewitching qualities. There’s not much electricity sparking between them, rendering their relationship absurd and incredible.
The support cast is better, with Tim Robbins suitably twitchy as Bartholemew. His 'Third Man'-evoking introduction on the Ferris wheel is one of the numerous cinematic references strewn about the film.
Demme at least attempts to present a modern version of Paris, a city that frequently sees Americans lose their critical faculties in a fog of woolly-headed romance. The music is smart and contemporary, the Gotan Project’s updating of classic tango being particularly effective, and Paris is accurately represented as an exotic, multi-cultural city.
But the clichés soon creep back. Red wine is quaffed in the back of cabs, Wahlberg dons a beret, and everyone seems to buy baguettes at some stage.Demme drops a real clanger with the film’s final image; our old friend, the Eiffel Tower, with Charles Aznavour singing in the foreground. Mon Dieu, c’est incroyable.