Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'll Send an S.O.S. to the World

Title: Message in a Bottle
Year: 1999
Rated: PG-13
Run Time: 2 hours, 11 minutes

Robin Wright-Penn as Theresa Osborne
Kevin Costner as Garret Blake
Paul Newman as Dodge Blake
Robbie Coltrane as Charlie Toschi
John Savage as Johnny Land
Ileanna Douglas as Lina Paul

One Sentence Plot Summary: A woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, and is determined to track down its author.

Tagline: A story of love lost and found.

First Viewing: January 26, 2011

And away we go! I've seen this movie once and I will not be watching it again, not even to get certain plot points 100% correct. So, I give my half-assed apologies now if you are, in fact, a fan of Nicholas Sparks and I somehow forget something crucial to this story. I'm not really sure how to format these next six blog posts. Should I go through the plot and then bitch? Or should I just bitch along the way? A little of both perhaps?

So Message in a Bottle begins with a woman named Theresa dropping her son off at the airport so he can stay with his dad and his younger, sexier obviously-once-was-a-former-mistress wife. Theresa stays at a bed and breakfast, rejects possible suitors, and goes running on the beach to kill the time until she can go back to her life that revolves around her son and job at the Chicago Tribune.

Theresa then finds the eponymous message in a bottle. It begins...
My Dearest Catherine, I miss you my darling, as I always do, but today is particularly hard because the ocean has been singing to me, and the song is that of our life together....
[pause to fight back the bile...

...okay, we're good]

She immediately falls in love with the romanticism of this letter written to the mysterious Catherine. When she returns to Chicago, her boss publishes the letter, causing a huge reader response. Two other letters with the same letterhead and similar writing style are sent in. Theresa uses her journalistic connections to CSI the shit out the situation and discovers the writer lives in North Carolina (a staple in Sparks' novels) and that his name is Garret Blake.

Theresa goes down to this sleepy North Carolinian hamlet to see if there's any kind of follow up to the story. She finds Garret who is attractive (eh, "Kevin Costner in the late 90's attractive") and single (Catherine is dead, more on that later). And of course, like in EVERY SINGLE FUCKING STORY/MOVIE/TV SHOW/BOOK/PLAY/WHATEVER, the reporter does not explain that she is, in fact, a reporter and that she knows private information about the other person. No, no. Then we wouldn't have a fucking story would we? No, we wouldn't.

So Theresa pretends to be a innocent tourist and takes a ride on Garret's sailboat. They talk. He invites her over for dinner. They talk some more and sleep together. Not "sleep together", but actually sleep together. Garret is still obsessed with his dead wife. He's left her painting corner PRECISELY how it was when she died. The twosome get in a fight when something is moved and Garret's dad explains that Catherine died due to pregnancy complications. Naturally, Garret blames himself.

But Theresa's "vacation" ends and she goes back to Chicago, but not after they exchange phone numbers. Eventually, Garret comes to the Windy City for a visit and they FINALLY have sex, (while Theresa's son is over at a friend's house). While Theresa is in the shower, Garret discovers the bottle, the letters, the newspaper article, and all other contra-fucking-band that shows Theresa as the manipulative stalker that she is.

Aaaaaaaaaaannnnnnnndddddddd you can guess what happens.

But since this is a Nicholas Sparks story, it just keeps going. Despite Garret being pissed at the deception, he's still inspired enough to finish this boat he was building before Catherine died. Apparently, this makes him forgive Theresa, so he sends her a Polaroid and she comes to see the boat launching. Of course the damn thing is named "Catherine" and he dedicates it to her. Theresa CAN'T STAND THE PAIN and runs back to Chicago. On the Catherine's maiden voyage, Garret attempts to save a family from a storm of deus ex machina AND DIES.

The end. :-)

I was naive about this one. Really, I actually thought, "You know, maybe since it's the first movie and since it's about people in their thirties, maybe it won't be as insipid." HA! Boy, was I a fucking idiot! Yes, Message in a Bottle is just as pandering, cliche, and hair-rippingly idiotic as the other two Nicholas Sparks movies I've had the pain of watching.

God, where to start? How about Theresa? Her husband left her for another woman and it hurt her, so she doesn't date much. Her life revolves around her son and job. Typical. So since she's obviously emotionally unsatisfied, she latches on to this exceptionally sappy man she's never met who, by the way, could be a complete psycho who gets off on sending fake letters out to sea. Then after she meets the real man and falls in love with him, she can't deal with the fact that he's obviously still in love with his wife, WHO HE WROTE THESE EXCEPTIONALLY SAPPY LETTERS TO!!! The whole reason why Theresa fell in love with Garret was because of his love for this other woman. Pretty sick, really.

Then there's Garret. He's your basic weeping widower. Honestly, I can't really complain about him. He's just doing his thing, living his life, mourning his wife. Who is anyone to say that he should get over her? But indeed, Theresa reminds him of how wonderful love can be and he's ready to take a chance again...then he dies.

Is this the reward for moving on? For some reason, Fiction tells us that whenever one love ends, there needs to be someone else to immediately fill that void. We can't possibly survive on our own. We can't possibly be satisfied with the memory of that "perfect love". Memories are insubstantial. Memories aren't real. Memories don't hold you when you cry or bake you a cake on your birthday. You can't have make up sex with a memory. But you can with a rebound. According to Fiction, the "perfect love" happens to be whoever is currently loving you and in this movie, that is Theresa.

But like I said, Garret dies in spite of the fact that he is ready to put away Catherine's memory and give his heart to Theresa. WHY? Seriously, what is the point of the fucking story? Are we supposed to move on or aren't we? What is the fucking lesson, Nicholas Sparks?

And then I wondered, maybe Nicholas Sparks is a genius and he's showing you just can't fucking win. You'll love one person the rest of your life and if you dare try to love again, Poseidon will give you a bitch slap and drown your ass. But then I realized, no, Nicholas Sparks just wrote himself into a corner and had to force some tragedy to make this story worthy of being published. Because if there's one thing Nicholas Sparks does indeed know, it's that the only love stories anyone remembers are about people who are tragically separated.
Think about it.

And what about poor Theresa who was dumped for that hot other woman and then failed to be better than Garret's perfect first wife? What about her? Well, no happy ending. She just goes on, just like before, working at the Trib and raising her son. Oh, but she did learn a lesson: 
"If some lives form a perfect circle, others take shape in ways we cannot predict or always understand. Loss has been part of my journey. But it has also shown me what is precious. So has love for which I can only be grateful."
Keep telling yourself that, babe.

Okay, what have I left out? Well, there's a whole subplot about Catherine's family and how they blame Garret for her death and how he keeps her paintings all to himself and blah, blah,blah do you really care? No. And there's the best part of the movie: Garret's dad, cantankerous grumpy old man, Dodge. Paul Newman thankfully brings some sarcasm and acid wit to this movie. I mean, it's not the best of this kind of humor, but everything else is so goddamn corny you'll think you're in fucking Iowa! The snark is so appreciated.

Can I be done now? I said something nice.

So there you have it, the very first of my Nicholas Sparks film adaptation reviews. Yes, I was disappointed in Message in a Bottle, but it was my own damn fault. I should have known better. From now on, I will assume that no pleasure can be taken from the next five films, only the feeling of a wolverine chewing on your foot.

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