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October 19, 2017

‘Dear John’: Even the beautiful cast can’t save you

Valentine’s Day came a week early this year, as swooning girls everywhere brought their significant others to see Lasse Hallstrom’s “Dear John.” With yet another sappy Nicholas Sparks adaptation, bright and shining Amanda Seyfried and a shirtless Channing Tatum, what’s not to love?

A whole lot, in fact. “Dear John” begins with Tatum (“Step Up,” “She’s the Man”) flinging himself off a pier in South Carolina to save Savannah’s (Seyfried) purse. This show of youthful bravado wins the college girl over and romance ensues.

A continuing theme of the movie, what follows next is very rushed. Within two weeks, coinciding with her spring break, the pair manages to fall deeply in love. Viewers are able to find out a bit more about the main characters such as his reputation as a bad boy, how protective her friends are over her and how he was raised. They even meet each others families.

Enter Richard Jenkins as Mr. Tyree, John’s father. Jenkins, an actor whose resume is full of supporting roles (“Step Brothers,” “Cheaper By the Dozen”), really shines in his role in “Dear John.” He excels in playing an emotionally devoid, potentially autistic father trying to hold on to the best memories he has, those of his son as a young boy. Scenes showing his kinship with Savannah follow, creating a sweet undertone.

That sweetness goes right out the window when John must return to his tour. Again, the plot is rushed as the audience sees the pair’s relationship attempt to withstand the obstacle of distance through the mail. The turning point in the movie is prominent: 9/11.

As the nation suffers through a devastating attack, not much of this emotion is shown on screen. What is presented, however, is Savannah’s hesitancy to continue with the relationship as John decides to reenlist. This is one of the only times where Tatum actually shows emotion, and he does it well.

What’s a girl to do? Move on with her life at college, or remain loyal to a guy who will be gone indefinitely? Savannah has an important choice to make – someone will suffer either way.

While Savannah sticks by John in the beginning and makes her final decision, “Dear John” is peppered with beautiful cinematography. Many scenes in the film could easily fit in with a Travel Channel program focusing on the Carolinas. Although the romance is obviously the focus of the movie, cinematographer Terry Stacey was able to ensure that the setting would not just become a backdrop.

Though Tatum seems to be stiff through out most of the movie, the romance is obviously there between his and Seyfried’s characters. While the two week-long romance between Savannah and John is unbelievable, had the producers (or author) chosen to stretch it out a little longer, the film itself would have been a lot better.

“Dear John” is far from an Oscar nominated movie. That said, it is not a terrible film. It is the sort of movie one would watch on a rainy day spent with a boyfriend or girlfriend if nothing else is on, and no one would be disappointed. But for all the hype and love for the book, the movie just did not measure up. The fast pace mixed with the choppy dialogue led to an overall mediocre film.

Kate MacDonald can be reached at kaitlynm@student.umass.edu.

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