The theatrical poster for the film Dear John poses the following question. What would you do with a letter that changed everything? How about this question. What would you do with a film that changes everything you love about going to the movies? Honestly, my movie going experience has been permanently damaged by the series of romantic films that have been released lately. The latest tragedy to the wonderful art of film making is the a fore mentioned Dear John. This film stacks up well to it’s predecessors When in Rome and Leap Year. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a sucker for a good love story. I might even shed a tear or two, but these films were just plain awful. The point of a romantic movie is to remember why you fell in love, to fall in love again, to hold your loved one, to wipe away a few tears. It shouldn’t have the opposite affect of generating anger, hatred and frustration. But, let me not digress and concentrate on the task on hand. My review of Dear John.
Nicolas Sparks has written some amazing books, but his novels should never be adapted for the big screen. Dear John has been referred to as the “Poor Man’s Notebook“. I wonder why? The film stars Channing Tatum as John Tyree, a soldier on leave from the Army Special Forces. Wait! Didn’t Channing Tatum play a tough in love soldier by the name of Duke in G.I Joe: The Rise of Cobra! It’s good to see him spreading his wings as an actor. The film also stars Amanda Sayfried, as Savannah Lynn Curtis. You may remember her from her lead role in the film (adapted from a Broadway play and Abba song) Mamma Mia! Need I say more.
The opening sequence of the film shows our beloved soldier laying wounded in the battlefield from a gun shot. We hear a voice reading what appears to be a letter (the content and meaning of this letter will be revealed later in the film). He begins to describe the two things that went through his mind as he laid wounded. First on his mind were”coins” and second was “you“. These two subjects play themselves out throughout the film, and the bridge that connects both is revealed towards the end of the film. In my opinion, this is the most interesting part of the film. The film now takes us back a couple of years to when boy meets girl. Savannah is on spring break from college. Near the beach, she decides to take a walk on a pier with some friends. Suddenly her bag falls over the pier and into the water. Enter stage left our hero, John, who dives over the railing and into the water to retrieve her bag. Savannah is impressed by what she sees and invites John to a barbecue. This turns into an evening of introductions ” me Tarzan, you Jane“, and the precursor to an unforgettable two weeks. At this point, we are introduced to a couple of key characters in this story. Henry Thomas (you may remember him as Elliot from E.T) plays Tim Wheddon a father who tends to his autistic son. When asked, he tells everyone that his wife is on vacation. A clear indication that she has left him alone to care for their autistic child. We also meet Mr Tyree (John’s father) played by Richard Jenkins. There is indication early on in the film that he may also suffer from autism. When the time comes for John to head back to the Army, Savannah sums it all up by saying “two weeks, that’s all it took for me to fall in love with you”. As they part ways, John and Savannah decide it best to write letters to each other until they meet again. As time goes by, John decides to stay in the Army longer than anticipated because of the attacks of 9/11. Savannah is disheartened by this choice, and realizes that she can no longer hold on to a love that can be taken away at any minute by death. Savannah feels the need to be with someone, not in mind and spirit, but in body. A person that needs her as much as she needs them. Someone to take care of now, and not later. These feelings lead to her marriage to the now cancer stricken Tim Wheddon. Suffice to say, John is not too pleased with this decision.
This opens the door to what makes this film watchable. John’s relationship with his father begins to unfold, and we discover the meaning behind the letter read at the beginning of the film. Also if you’ve read any of Nicholas Spark’s novels, the setting for this film will not surprise you. The Carolina’s invoke the true charm and hospitality of the south. At times, the story takes us to war infested parts of the world, but only for brief moments. These two elements make this film somewhat bearable.
In my opinion, this movie never really took off. It stayed idle on it’s launch pad, at times the rockets were fired up, but ultimately it went no where. By the time the movie ended, I was still waiting for something to happen. As mentioned earlier, the character of Savannah states the following “two weeks, that’s all it took for me to fall in love with you”. I somewhat agree with this statement, but here is my version: “Two minutes, that’s all it took for me to hate this movie”
By the way, what becomes of John and Savannah at the end of the film? Sadly, you must watch this film in order to find out.
Sly ‘the Critic”