CHANNING TATUM AMANDA SEYFRIED RICHARD JENKINS
Best-selling author Nicholas Sparks has become the Stephen King we remember from the 90’s, virtually everything he has written is now being optioned for a major motion picture. This shouldn’t be surprising since his biggest hit to date The Notebook set a record for romance films at the box office. Other features like Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember and his other 2010 release The Last Song have all paled in comparison to The Notebook. However Hollywood plays movie scripts sort of like the lottery, always hopeful to repeat that big success. Dear John like most of Spark’s writings relies on emotion and sorry to draw the viewer in for a story that will fail and be sappy or poignantly succeed.
When college student Savannah (Seyfried) accidently drops her purse into the Atlantic Ocean, a bystander named John (Tatum) jumps off the pier to retrieve it hoping to catch her attention. John is home in Charleston, SC on leave from the army, while Savannah is on spring break. It only takes two weeks of dates for the two to fall madly in love. When John must return overseas and Savannah to school they promise to write each other letters until his tour is finished and they can be together forever. Being apart takes a toll on Savannah who is forced to break up with the love of her life, leaving John with nothing but his duty.
Director Lasse Hallstrom has now completely withdrawn from films like The Cider House Rules and The Shipping News in favor of romantic comedies that in the US are easy and quick to produce with a large return on investment. Sparks’ novel adaptations never dig very deep into the characters because of all the elements that suck up the honest and artistic qualities. In this particular script the over usage of montage (which has been nearly entirely downgraded specifically for movies dealing with romance) and voice over provide quick ways to explain a character without getting to know them. Often times the film seems torn in too many different directions; (i.e. love story, father son story, and sympathy towards autism).
What Dear John does get right is the connection and chemistry between Tatum and Seyfried (who has been called by some the next Julia Roberts). By Roberts’ 3rd movie she was already a house hold name; Seyfried who has certainly dabbled in a variety of genres (thriller, musical, comedy, etc) has yet to find that role that is nothing else encourages everyone how to pronounce her name correctly. Tatum was cast here for no other reason than his looks, but manages to muster up that masculine emotion seen so rare in these types of cardboard characters. Sparks of course has this story set on the coast of the Carolina’s and the setting works as usual to exemplify the color wheel of emotions these characters spring through.
Final Thought – The chemistry is there but hardly anything else.
By: Dustin Chase W.
Editor: Jennifer Gih