Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dear John: Nicholas Sparks latest movie

I'll admit it: The Notebook is one of my favorite movies. However, the newest movie adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel is not quite up to par, and in this instance, I blame the film maker rather than the material. I haven't read any of Sparks' books except The Notebook, but that was years before the movie was made. However, I've seen and enjoyed 4 (yes 4) of the movies made from his books. Since they're all basically the same premise, I'll just give you the details of each in the order I enjoyed them and why.

The Notebook stars Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams as Noah and Allie, who fall in love even though he's a poor local boy and she's a posh city girl. Her mother secretly keeps them apart by holding back all the letters Noah writes when they separate. Allie falls in love with another, James Marsden, and agrees to marry him. Noah works to fulfill his dreams of renovating an old plantation house, and when his picture appears in the paper, Allie has doubts that her love has disappeared. They reunite, and all is well. The terrific chemistry between them, and the beautiful scenery in the North Carolina coastal areas make the film a joy to watch and romantic. Also, there's quite a twist at the end that's easy to see coming, but still heartwarming, and played by marvelous actors.

Next comes Dear John, starring Channing Tatem and Amanda Seyfried in the same roles as The Notebook, posh, educated city girl, and local boy in the army. They fall in love over the two weeks he's on leave, and then write letters for what should be his last year of service. However, 9/11 gets in the way, and he re-enlists, and she decides she can't wait for him forever. She sends him a "dear John" aka break-up letter (ironically, his name is John), and he is devastated. Of course they ultimately find each other again years later. The best part of this movie is the various subplots, particularly John's father played brilliantly by Oscar nominee Richard Jenkins. He's a single dad who has never been able to communicate with his son. It's only meeting Seyfried that John understands his dad has Asperger's Syndrome and they begin to work towards a better relationship. Since this is a new release, I'll give it the 2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

A Walk to Remember varies only slightly from the rough boy/posh girl relationship. This time they're in high school, and she has leukemia and doesn't really care what people think of the odd ways she dresses or talks. Shane West is a popular kid forced to hang out with her while doing the musical. West and Mandy Moore do good job convincing us they're falling in love. It's sad just like all the others, though as it doesn't end happily, it's more of a tear-jerker than just a romantic movie.

Finally, Nights in Rodanthe is a grown-up offering from Sparks. Diane Lane plays a divorced woman who agrees to housesit a Bed and Breakfast on the North Carolina coast for a friend one weekend. Only one guest is expected: Richard Gere, a single doctor coming to seek forgiveness from a local family after he failed to save their mother. Lane and Gere get stranded at the house when a hurricane approaches, and of course, they too fall in love. Gere finds forgiveness won't come from the family, but finding love is better. He goes to work with his son in Latin America, writing letters to Lane, promising to return. It also doesn't end well, and for that reason, it's my least favorite.

So, what do most Sparks movies have in common? 1. Socially unequal couples fall in love in very short periods of time. 2. Though socially diverse, they are both very literate and enjoy sending letters. 3. Bad things will occur to keep the couple apart, but sometimes it all ends well. 4. All are fun to watch.


Castor said...

Funny, I just reviewed the Notebook as part of my Valentine's Day movie review marathon on my site.

I will probably see Dear John someday but definitely not in theater... I don't to risk leaving my manhood there :)

Reel Whore said...

Don't beat me, but I've never seen any Nicholas Sparks adapations. I've got the Notebook in my NFQ b/s I really like McAdams & Gosling. Maybe I can make a month of it soon and catch up on them all - though probably not back to back.

Jess said...

RW - Definitely don't see them all back to back, you'll melt into a puddle of syrupy sugar sweetness and never recover. Slowly over time and you'll probably actually enjoy them.

Reel Whore said...

I think 1/month will be all I can stand.

BTW, where's Message in a Bottle? Isn't it a Sparks novel? I never saw it either, but I was curious where it would fall in your rankings.

Jess said...

You're right, I totally forgot Message in a Bottle. Robin Wright gets lots of credit, but the Kevin Costner part takes away, so it ranks just below Dear John, or on par. It has one of the better film scripts of the Sparks movies, but can't get over Costner.