I saw Dear John last weekend (apparently helping it topple Avatar’s perch at the top of the box office – booya!) and guess what? I didn’t hate it. There was a semi-positive review on Cinematical.com (by a man no less!) which in mentioning that the film was directed by Lasse Hallstrom, whose past films I have enjoyed, allayed my fears somewhat about seeing another Nicholas Sparks weepie (I had seen the last one, Nights in Rodanthe, just because Diane Lane starred in it, but it was AWFUL). So when my sister said that she was taking my niece to see it I decided to join them. Of course a well respected director was the last thing my fourteen year old niece and her girlfriend cared about in going to see this film. They were going for one thing and one thing only: Channing Tatum. They worship openly at the shrine to all things hot and buff that is Channing Tatum. Personally, I don’t get it. I’m not in the least bit attracted to him. He’s like a big monkey to me. Really. Look at him closely – he’s very simian. I have to admit the only movie I had ever seen him in was G.I. Joe which is not really the kind of movie that lets you gauge how good an actor one might be.
In Dear John I found him to be surprisingly affecting and genuine. It’s the typical Sparks formula: boy meets girl, boy and girl have a very, very short time together before life (he’s a soldier, she’s a student) drive them apart. Can their love survive the separation? Not if you want the entire movie theater to bawl their eyes out! Luckily this story had interesting side characters that populated these star crossed lovers lives and they were portrayed by actors as stellar as Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas. Incidentally, as soon as he appeared on screen, my sister whispered to me, "Who is that actor, he’s familiar?" and I pointed my finger at the sky and said, "Ellllliiiiiooott!" She laughed. Sorry Henry Thomas but you will always be Elliott, doesn’t matter how old you are or how many different roles you play.
Richard Jenkins is a fantastic actor. As John’s quiet, possibly mildly mentally challenged father (at least I think that’s what the film was driving at), his veteran acting skills practically stole the entire movie away from his younger, inexperienced co-stars. And Henry Thomas played the over protective best friend role very well. I don’t think his character arc came as a surprise to viewers, but apparently it came as a huge surprise to Channing Tatum’s John. So silly.
I just realized I said nothing about our romantic leading lady Amanda Seyfried. She was ok. I bought her in the early scenes, but after the characters were supposed to have aged several years and lived their difficult lives, she was a little less convincing. She is uniquely beautiful though. I’ll give her that. Although that has nothing to do with her acting.
So yeah, this film was fairly predictable but under the assured hand of director Lasse Hallstrom it was well acted and showed some welcome restraint in the over manipulative weepie department. The music was great and I was pleased to hear The Swell Season during the love scene. Any movie that uses The Swell Season in critical moments is ok by me!