Feb 2010 04

I was looking forward to seeing Dear John for weeks before seeing the movie, all the time having high hopes. Often times when that’s the case, it doesn’t end up to be as good as you hope.  Most romantic movies are unrealistic, and just cheesy. NOT Dear John. If there was a John and Savannah out there, i believe that their love story would be just like this movie.

John Tyree, played by Channing Tatum, is a solider with a sweet spot. Channing did a phenomenal job throughout the entire movie –  maybe his best role yet. You see him fight for his country, fall in love, see his emotional side, and in the end – becoming a better man. I hope to see more of Channing in movies like this. Savannah Curtis, played by Amanda Seyfried, is an innocent and loving young woman. She loves to help people, and has a passion for teaching children with special needs. She seems like the perfect girl.

The main characters are very likable. There were twists that caught me off guard, which always makes a good movie. Most love stories are completely predictable, But not this one. Dear John is unlike any love story that I have seen. It wasn’t just a love story – but there was also drama, war, heartache – and death. There were uncommon subjects touched upon, like dealing with family members with special needs. At times you will be angry, and at others you will feel how powerful love can be. Dear John is an emotional film; I loved it.

It was love at first sight for John and Savannah. And the audience can feel their true love for one another. John and his father share a relationship that is very distant. It seems as though all that his father has ever cared about is his large coin collection – neglecting John. But it’s deeper than that, and we learn why things are the way they are. Soon before John goes overseas, Savannah tries to help him heal the relationship between him and his father. But John didn’t appreciate her butting in, and his bad boy side comes out – showing that he isn’t perfect. One of the things that makes the movie so enjoyable is the realism.  The story is believable, and makes it that much better to watch.

Dear John is compared to The Notebook, since the novel it is based on was written by the same author. I loved The Notebook, but I have to say that I enjoyed this film even more. For me, Dear John explored an entirely deeper level. The lives of the main characters become more complicated after they meet, but their love keeps them connected. No matter what they go through, and no matter how far apart they are – love keeps them alive.

Dear John is a ~ BIG A ~

Another Take From Zac:

The latest Nicholas Sparks adaptation falls flat on the romantic side of things, but a fantastic turn by Richard Jenkins and the story around him make the picture worth seeing if you can get through the sap surrounding some of the other elements of the film.

John is a Special Forces soldier in March of 2001, while on leave back home in Charleston he meets a college girl, Savannah, on spring break and the two sweeps each other off their feet and begin a romance that they feel is true love.  They decide to stay together and write letters to one another until John’s last year of service ends but as we know 9/11 is looming and they are destined to be kept apart.  Each of them also has some close “family” members that both have autism and these relationships are the moments of the film that are most rewarding.  John’s father is a high functioning autistic and John was oblivious to his condition which Savannah spots after spending much of her life supporting her neighbor’s son who is autistic.  The neighbor’s, Henry Thomas, wife has left him and her son behind as he struggles to raise a child on his own.  These stories are where this movie shines and I wish the focus was more on these characters.

Unfortunately they aren’t and the focus is more squarely on the romance and that is where the film falls really flat and falls deep into cliché.  The two stars, Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried, just don’t have any chemistry and it is impossible to believe that these two have formed this incredible emotional relationship in only two weeks.  The two are also too young to convincingly play the older versions of themselves as the film jumps a few years into the future and it seems like the filmmakers didn’t even really try to make them look any older or different.  Also, it’s hard to take long lost lovers too seriously as they fight over their love on, literally, only the 17th day they have ever spent together; at least they got the ending right though.

The scenes with John’s father are the scenes that really work and work quite well actually.  Richard Jenkins plays John’s father and he is absolutely fantastic in the role.  He elevates everyone around him and absolutely blows everyone and everything else in the picture out of the water.  Nailing the high functionality and awkwardness of his condition his character is all together endearing and sad and watching he and his character are worth the price of admission alone.  Channing Tatum even steps up his game with Jenkins and there final moment in the film is incredibly touching with Tatum doing some of his best work as an actor.

Tatum is unable to take this level of work to the rest of his performance though and while the clichéd, seen it a million times, scenes and dialogue don’t really give him a lot to work with he doesn’t do anything to elevate the weak material.  He does do a bit better in the military scenes and it would have been nice to see some more of his interactions with his team but they are regulated to a minimum which I feel was a missed opportunity.  Amanda Seyfried doesn’t really do anything special in the film and just comes off as bland and unbelievable throughout the whole picture.  She just never clicked with any of her fellow actors and can’t find a presence to really be a lead in the picture.  Henry Thomas is quite funny and does a good job as Savannah’s neighbor and has a number of funny lines through out the picture.  Scott Porter, who I love in Friday Night Lights and Speed Racer, is also not very good at all here and I think he should try to stay away from playing a tough guy douche bag role from here on out.

Lasse Hallström’s direction is tough to gage as his film really works in a certain places and not at all in others.  The “love scene” between John and Savannah is very well done with a great choice of haunting music from The Swell Season that fit the scene perfectly and there are a couple military sequences that looked surprisingly cool, though very brief, that show competency along with the Jenkins scenes but they are at such a contrast to the romance work in the picture I don’t know who to blame.  But Porter and Seyfried have been good in the past so maybe the director failed to elevate his actors when needed and got luckily when they turned it up a notch.

In the end, Dear John is a failure as a romance due to lack of chemistry and originality but a winner on when it comes to any scene with Richard Jenkins.  Jenkins is worth the price of admission if you want to see a great actor knock it out of the park and I will go as far as saying that this turn will almost undoubtedly end up being one of the top five supporting roles of the year.  The problem is the performance is in this mediocre movie and released in February.  That performance in a bigger movie during Oscar season and he is getting awards talk, sadly this performance will be all but forgotten by then.  Instead it will be remembered as another mediocre Nicholas Sparks adaptation that lacked chemistry or any hint of originality to differentiate itself from a million other romance films.  But if you think you can bare the sap, Jenkins work is a fantastic showcase of a quality actor killing it.

Dear John is a C-


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