The Truth About Charlie
Why would anyone want to do a remake of ”Charade,” the 1963 booby-trapped romantic thriller that always played like a Hitchcock movie in cement shoes? Director Jonathan Demme must have been looking for something light and lively after ”Beloved” (1998), but The Truth About Charlie is an oddball diversion indeed. It’s a caper that twists itself into knots to look fancier and more mod than a mere caper. Shooting in Paris, Demme has crafted the entire film with a handheld camera and frantic jump cuts, in the manner of some arty new-wave documentary, and he has cast the gravely gorgeous Thandie Newton in the role once played by Audrey Hepburn, getting her to act not like a perky gamine in distress but a dour woman in peril. The convoluted cloak-and-dagger plot is now padded out to include the war in Sarajevo. ”The Truth About Charlie” isn’t incompetent, exactly, yet it would be hard to think of a recent movie that has worked this hard to achieve this little fun.
Arriving in Paris, Newton discovers that her art-dealer husband — the Charlie of the title — has been mysteriously murdered. From the outset, she is stalked by a multi-culti trio of his shadowy former associates. Is there anyone she can trust? Mark Wahlberg, in the Cary Grant role, is the dreamboat drifter who latches onto Newton for what looks, at first, like the most innocent of love-struck reasons. These two have the generic chemistry of beauty, but their contrasting styles — she urgent and teary, he B-boy casual — never gel into anything romantic. Wahlberg, in particular, gets lost in the byways of the film’s hollow thriller maze. The trouble with ”The Truth About Charlie” is that it really is after the truth about Charlie, a character we could hardly give a damn about. The only charade is the illusion that we might actually be entertained.