First the good news: Not only does The Truth About Charlie signal a return to form for Jonathan Demme after the clumsy Philadelphia and the solemn Beloved, but the whimsical iconoclast may have just made the best Hollywood film of the year. Now the bad: This remarkable achievement will likely go unnoticed by anyone unfamiliar with Demme’s early work, let alone anyone expecting another Silence of the Lambs. The Truth About Charlie might be the greatest valentine to the cinema since Godard’s A Woman is a Woman, not because it’s ripe with delicious cameos by Nouvelle Vague figures (Agnès Varda, Anna Karina) but because its aesthetic gumption is completely free of irony and pretense. The film also does justice to its equally delightful source material (Stanley Donen’s 1963 classic Charade) while standing apart on its own modernist terms. With The Truth About Charlie, Demme creates a lark so graceful and fun to watch it makes Punch-Drunk Love‘s many flaws that much more obvious. Thandie Newton stars as Regina Lampert, a young woman thrust into a web of intrigue and thorny romance when her husband is murdered aboard a train. Newton’s girlish yet sexy charms make her a perfect candidate for the role originated by Audrey Hepburn almost 40 years ago. As the American in Paris who comes to Regina’s aide, Mark Wahlberg has nothing on Newton (let alone Cary Grant) yet Demme does wonders evoking their sizzling chemistry as a byproduct of the prickly situations they get themselves into. Not since Married to the Mob has Demme directed anything so deliriously absurd. And not since Citizen’s Band or even Something Wild have any of his films been so effortlessly and spontaneously constructed. Demme’s direction is a bit uppity yet the film’s rhythmic marriage of sound and image is transcendent, at once bringing to mind the fervor of Tom Tykwer’s Run Lola Run and the devastating sexual energy of Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love. Thanks in part to Rachel Portman’s gorgeous score and a collection of killer tunes both old and new, The Truth About Charlie feels not unlike a moving postcard sent by a group of friends having the most incredible European adventure of their lives.
- Jonathan Demme
- Jessica Bendinger, Jonathan Demme, Steve Schmidt, Peter Stone
- Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton, Stephen Dillane, Lisa Gay Hamilton, Joon-Hoon Park, Ted Levine, Christine Boisson, Charles Aznavour, Agnès Varda, Sakina Jaffrey, Anna Karina, Tim Robbins
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