While The Truth About Charlie may not improve on its source material, the 1963 classic Charade, it's nevertheless an exciting, change-of-pace thriller that showcases the talents of emerging star Thandie Newton.
The original 1963 film Charade, directed by Stanley Donan, was often called "the best Hitchcock film not directed by Hitchcock." Starring two of the major stars of the time, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, the film was a harbinger of '90s thrillers like The Usual Suspects and Wild Things, whose plots hinged on seemingly endless successions of improbable plot twists.
While one could say that Charade was so perfect it was in need of no remake, The Truth About Charlie is good enough to not fit into the category of abominable remakes such as Sydney Pollack's Havana and Gus Van Sant's Psycho. That's due to the unique, inspired direction by Jonathan Demme, and the magnetic lead performance by Thandie Newton.
Now male lead Mark Wahlberg has yet to equal his tour de force performance in 1997's Boogie Nights in a half-dozen lead roles since, and his pedestrian performance in Truth About Charlie can't measure up even to Dirk Diggler, much less the standard put forth by Cary Grant in the original. But Thandie Newton has the beauty, grace, and screen presence that actually makes her believable in the Hepburn role. Having taken two years off after Mission: Impossible 2 to have a baby, Newton makes a welcome return and shows why she should be appearing in leading roles more often.
The other major star of the film is the Paris scenery - Demme is clearly going for a French New Wave look, including an international cast that even includes Agnes Varda, Anna Karina, and Charles Avanzour. Demme's only film in the past decade was the substandard Beloved (which also starred Newton); Truth About Charlie is a step back in the direction of his run of Married to the Mob, Silence of the Lambs, and Philadelphia.
The plot, which follows a young woman (Newton) who gets caught up in a web of intrigue following the mysterious death of her husband (Stephen Dillane), and is caught between two men of mystery (Wahlberg and Tim Robbins), can be hard to follow at times, as there are a half-dozen major plot twists, yet the screenplay does a good enough job explaining itself, as well as putting new spins on familiar scenes from Charade.
If the choice must be made between the two versions, my recommendation would be to rent Charade. But that's not to say that Truth About Charlie isn't worth a look as well - it is, if only for Ms. Newton's performance.