Sunday, April 18, 2010
Dear John *
Director: Lasse Hallström
Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Channing Tatum, Richard Jenkins
Henry Thomas, D.J. Cotrona, Cullen Moss, Gavin McCulley
Your knowledge of Nicholas Sparks' work doesn't need to be so extensive to know the kind of movie Dear John will be. His formula of doomed love, life threatening diseases and third act twists has been established in films like A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe and especially The Notebook.
This one is obviously not different but by now the formula is so established that this one isn't even fun.
The lovers this time are Savannah (Seyfried) and John (Tatum); she's a good girl who doesn't drink, smoke or curse and he's the former rebel now on army leave.
They meet when he rescues her purse after it falls on the ocean, she is so impressed by his lifesaving skills and pecs (after all her "whole life is in that bag") that two weeks later they're already declaring eternal love for each other.
During these two weeks they frolic in the beach, make out under the rain and Savannah even diagnoses John's coin-collecting father (Jenkins who obviously deserved better) as slightly autistic.
When John has to go back into service, they decide they will write each other and keep no secrets, which turns the film into a dull, uninspired version of a Green Day video. For almost half an hour Dear John takes on an epistolary form and the sun tinted, overlong montage that serves as background for the actors' readings, comes to a sudden end on 9/11.
John decides it's his duty to reenlist and their relationship enters a limbo that makes the film take a turn for the worse as it suggests that the evil war is responsible for the leads' tears.
Perhaps nothing about the movie intends to be fresh but little in it makes its existence justifiable. Tatum and Seyfried, while pretty to look at, have no chemistry and never evoke the angst and longing we're supposed to perceive from their tacky Now, Voyager redux quips about the moon.
The issue might not be the actors but the terrible writing which seems reasonable on the surface but might lead to some disturbing and complex realizations from anyone with the slightest analytical capacity.
In the time of instant gratification and e-mail, Savannah and John's love isn't only utterly fantastical but also fake; instead of breaking hearts the movie should serve to stimulate naive minds and make them realize that perhaps this so called love is nothing but fear of commitment represented through the perpetuation of a faux state of romance.
When the reasoning for a life altering decision is justified by saying "you think it was easy without you", it's fair to say that Dear John isn't an ode to the romantic but to the idiotic.