Message in a Bottle
- Robin Wright Penn as Theresa Osborne
- Kevin Costner as Garret Blake
- Paul Newman as Dodge Blake
- Illeana Douglas as Lina
- Robbie Coltrane as Charlie
A totally trite, over familiar and plodding romance, Message in a Bottle only holds the attention for the cast and some lush scenery. Other than that, this film is one to avoid as it is predictable with a capital P and not even enjoyably predictable.
Theresa Osborne is a researcher who works for the Chicago Tribune. One day while on the beach after finishing a story in Cape Cod, Theresa unearths a message in a bottle washed up on shore. Inside, she finds a heartfelt love letter to a woman called Catherine, signed with the initial G. Theresa is moved and curious about the letter and decides to discover just who wrote it and where it came from. Her research, thanks to help from work and friends that reveals more letters, leads her to the Outer Banks of North Carolina and to a man identified as Garret Blake. She travels to the area and approaches Garret, not telling him about the letters she discovered. Garret is an emotionally shut off man who furnishes boats and largely keeps to himself. This arose from his wife( the Catherine of the letter), and her death in childbirth two years before. Gradually, Theresa begins to warm to Garret and he in turn slowly lightens in her presence, planting the seeds of undeniable attraction. Though while Garret has still not gotten over his wife’s death and nurses his feelings quietly, his wise, irascible father Dodge prods him to take a chance with Theresa. Sure enough, love slowly blossoms for them. Yet Theresa can’t help but fight internally with the knowledge that she hasn’t told Garret of how she came into contact with him, which would no doubt change the burgeoning love between them.
Luis Mandoki has shown real greatness as a movie maker, but his outing in this venture is sadly one of his lesser achievements. It isn’t that he doesn’t direct well, he is just unable to bring anything really excellent to a film that is wholly unrealistic. Believe me, no amount of embellishment could make this a winning movie. This film is based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, which really should have been a forewarning of the quality presented. But as usual, I thought to myself I may as well try it and see if it confounds my expectations. Sadly, the film left me begging for the shore as it was so stranded in unrealistic and schmaltzy moments, that failed to resonate with me. Now I’m no cynic and I like a good romance as much as the next person( even sometimes ones that are predictable), but I didn’t find much to praise or be entertained by in Message in a Bottle. Instead the hallmarks of the Sparks factory where on full parade; rain-soaked confrontations, overlapping scenes of letter reading and just cringe-inducing sweetness. Even when the film reaches the stages of being tear jerking, it just doesn’t have the required impact because the whole script and story has been so utterly clunky and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how Message in a Bottle will conclude. Contrary to my disdain for the overall movie, it did have its virtues. One is the lovely cinematography that feels so idyllic and luscious among the many instances of water, that you can’t help but marvel at the lighting and palette it has going for it. And to be honest, the score wasn’t to bad either. The problem is that the sappy soundtrack got more play time in Message in a Bottle, which made it sugary as a sweet shop.
Hope is found however in the work from the main cast, who are well above this material and add some of their abilities to make this not a flat-out failure. The glowing Robin Wright Penn manages to ring emotion and vibrancy out of her character; with a smile that lights up the screen and a soulful, unaffected delivery. Kevin Costner’s strong and stoic type is not much of a stretch in terms of the acting muscles, but it is the actor’s strong suit and one that he mines pretty well here. Stealing the show however are the bright eyes and undying charisma of Paul Newman, playing Costner’s salty but helpful father. Newman is a real hoot and at times a very owlish presence and with him being an old pro, he brings a hell of a lot more to the part than I’m sure was intended. The film picks up whenever Newman is around and sinks back into boredom once he isn’t there, because his mere aura is one of fine acting and spirit. Illeana Douglas and Robbie Coltrane pop up in supporting roles, but neither is given an opportunity to do anything of note.
So in the end, Message in a Bottle is a film that has moments of goodness but nothing in the way of exceptional quality, except the work of the main cast. Put simply, Message in a Bottle is a film totally lost at sea.