Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear John

Say It Like You Mean It

Dear John,

Romance is a bitch, ain't it? Especially when you don't hear from someone for longer than the usual duration, blaming the delay on everyone else except the sender, then the sledgehammer comes aimed squarely at your heart, smashing it to bits, and it had to be done when you least expected, without preparation, without a chance at attempting to put things right again.

Been there, done that my friend, although you did demonstrate you're a decent chap who can forgive and extend a helping hand toward someone who had essentially taken advantage of your situation given the pitiable situation. You're out there defending the notion of freedom for your country, and that's exactly how a countryman capitalizes on your absence. You're a soldier, so you'll probably know that all is fair in love and war, just too bad that you got on the losing end as you're fighting with one hand tied behind your back.

Hope you don't get stuck or conned again by another confused girl, but sometimes, once bitten we're still not twice shy, and we go into the same old, tried and tested loop again, don't we?

Your Friend, Stefan S

At least that would be my letter to John Tyree, a Special Forces GI Joe type which Channing Tatum seemed dangerously stereotyped to play, and the girls like Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) go gaga over when he plunges into the water to rescue her girlie bag which had dropped in. So boy meets girl by chance, they like each other, and spend the most incredible two weeks hanging out and declaring their affections before summer's over. It's like the opening shot in Grease, only that they take a pledge to keep one another in their minds, and write each other from miles away, since Mr Career Soldier is assigned a stint overseas, made worse with the events of 9/11, finding himself being torn between his lady love, and the call of duty to fight for freedom.

You've got to take your hats off to the novelist Nicholas Sparks, who can craft a romance as easy as spreading butter on toast, be it an elderly one (Nights in Rodanthe), or a teeny-bopper puppy first love between a quietly violent man and a teenage girl, both of whom do not know exactly what they want except to spend as much time with each other as possible, before they got to have to carry on with their lives. Peppered with enough romantic scenes in the first half such as stolen glances, the rain, the long walks on the beach and such, nothing's really gonna prepare you for the relatively more brutal, more realist development.

Characterization in this film was spent more on John I felt, than on Savannah. After all, we're following his story from the onset, and his relationship with his dad (played by the wonderful Richard Jenkins) had a lot more oomph than that between Savannah and her parents (very superficial), or even between the lovers themselves. There's a very thorough, meaningful and moving sub-story with regards to father and son's coin collection, which I deem as the ultimate highlight of the film, rather than the gimmicky sending and reading of letters back and forth across time and space, which other stories such as The Lake House had utilized.

I haven't read the book so I cannot comment on the ending if it stayed through, but the way it was delivered by Lasse Hallstrom, of the latest Hachiko fame, one would have thought that it would be planned in a better manner, rather than to rely on a convenient and somewhat abrupt finale that unfortunately in today's screening, the music wobbled at a critical point, making it all seem rather amusing rather than touching. At least the story steered clear of the usual romantic twists and as such keeping it fresh though safe, and tolerable rather than to roll your eyes at another cliché.

Dear John has its moments, though I don't exactly call this one a date movie, unless you're watching this for the first half. Oh, and the way the lovers make love one fateful night was deemed too risque by the censors, so their recommendation to have it badly butchered was heeded if the distributors wanted a safer PG rating, to the groans of the female audience who were all anticipating more of Tatum's John (pardon the intentionally bad pun). So there. We can see blood spurting out of John's uniform when bullets pass through his shoulder, but we have a lower tolerance for love.

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