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Dear John (2010)

| April 17, 2011 | 0 Comments

I had a certain amount of trepidation going into Dear John, not cynicism, but expectations that were not exceptionally high. It is about two beautiful people, John and Savannah that would probably be perfectly happy if the darn plot would just leave them alone. They meet one summer and fall deeply in love before he is deployed to Iraq. They then spend the next two years writing letters to one another with the promise that they will be together again. The fact that every one of her letters opens with the words “Dear John” had to make him a little jumpy.

The basic nuts and bolts of the story are a perfectly good recipe for a great romance: Two people get to know one another and continue getting to know one another even though they are half a world apart. The problem is that the movie gums up their romance with needless plot developments that only distract from our time getting to know them. I can get behind John having to go when he country calls but I probably didn’t need the autistic father, the horse ranch for kids, the dying neighbor who vies for Savannah’s heart, or even that inevitable Dear John letter. The ending of the movie is a contrivance that just got in the way.

The story involves John (Channing Tatum) and Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) who meet one summer at the beaches of South Carolina. John, handsome and well-sculpted, is in the Army Special Forces on a two week leave. A poor kid, he lives with this father (Richard Jenkins) who is a recluse who collects coins. Savannah is a rich girl who is not just beautiful but ethereal in that way that doesn’t seem possible without special effects. She loves kids and opens a ranch for kids with Autism. The two meet when he dives off a pier to retrieve her purse. Good thing she didn’t bring the cat.

The couple fall into that kind of romance that makes you want to spend two hours just listening to them talk. You want to watch them getting to know each other, building a relationship and eventually a life together. This is not to be, however, because the movie loses focus and pushes them into the kinds of plot developments that might make for a cuddle-up romance novel but make for a very frustrating movie. That’s especially the case when John is deployed to Iraq after 9/11 and receives a Dear John letter that seems to come out of nowhere. Every subsequent scene after that feels forced, as if you can feel it being written rather than flowing naturally from the characters.

That’s too bad because Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried make a wonderful couple. They aren’t just two actors pushed together, but really seem organically made for each other. They are beautiful people who have genuine chemistry together. Tatum has that kind of pretty-boy smolder that lets you know that the inside is as pretty as the outside. Seyfriend is gorgeous but also has a brain and a personality (if she doesn’t play an angel at some point in her career, I’ll be disappointed). They connect in a very nice way, but who are these two characters outside of this plot? Director Lass Halstrom, I know, is at the mercy of the fact that he is working from a Nicholas Sparks novel. One deviation would have brought on the ire of Sparks’ legion of fans, but as someone who is not a follower of his books, I have only this movie to go by. I could hope for a sequel, maybe an original screenplay that would simply allow this lovely couple to get to know each other.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2010) View IMDB Filed in: Drama