Valentine’s Marathon: Message in a Bottle (1999)

The first movie adapted from Nicholas Sparks is Message in a Bottle. Let me just confess that when I was in high school, I loved Nicholas Sparks novels.  I’m not sure if I still have that love now because I just don’t read romance as much anymore and well, I had lent my copy of Message in  a Bottle to a friend who never gave it back to me. Either way, I’ve owned this movie for about 5 years now (I think) and tried to start watching it about 4 times and every time, I can’t get past the first 30 minutes and fall asleep.  Last night, I made myself some tea and sat upright in my chair and watched this, lets check it out!

message in a bottle posterDirector: Luis Mandoki

Cast: Robin Wright, Kevin Costner, Paul Newman, John Savage, Illeana Douglas, Robbie Coltrane

Divorced mom and  researcher for Chicago Tribune, Theresa (Robin Wright) takes a vacation.  During a run along the beach, she finds a bottle with a message inside addressed to Catherine, signed by G.  Touched by the letter, she brings it back to her office and her boss (Robbie Coltrane) publishes it in the newspaper which causes a lot of response with other letters coming in.  After some research, she traces down a Garret Blake and convinces her boss to go get his story.  After meeting Garret (Kevin Costner), she couldn’t bring herself to tell him about the letters and the two end up falling in love.  Despite their feelings, Garret still doesn’t seem to know how to let go of his past with Catherine, while Theresa has to go back to her reality with her son.

I personally think that Nicholas Sparks is a genius, a really messed up romantic writer above all things but he knows how to capture his demographic well using very similar tragic love stories done in a certain formula that almost always ends in a depressing way, but people still come back for more. Believe me, I know. I went through a phase which ended up with me owning six of his novels on my bookshelf right now and another 3 that I’ve read but don’t own. Nothing quite impacted me like Message In a Bottle and A Walk to Remember though.  So, its safe to say that I did like the source material from what this movie was based on. Now, did it match to my expectations? Thats really the question, right?

message in a bottle opening

To that question, I’d have to say half and half.  I liked the movie (now that I finally stayed awake to watch it) but there were certain parts I just couldn’t buy into.  The story is fine.  Its is.  I can’t hate on it at all.  Message in a Bottle is a really well-written love story.  Its about letting go, making choices between your past and your future because you only get to choose one.  Its about pushing through your fears and taking risks.  And its about loss and tragedy and learning to see what is most precious. As generic as it all seems, its what works for love stories.  Its signature for Nicholas Sparks to add this sweet but tragic ending. Okay, I’m rambling again….What else did work was the scenery.  I think it was shot in Maine, but I’m not exactly sure but it was by lots of water and it was beautiful.  Simply magnificent scenery.  Thats a romantic setting.  And they had beautiful background music to match the scenes.  It gave the movie a nice touch 🙂

message in a bottle garret theresa

I never skip talking about the characters.  I haven’t seen Robin Wright do a lot of movies. Well, obviously, I’ve seen Princess Bride. She is a beauty to watch and a pretty awesome actress.  I think romance works for her a lot too.  Her has Theresa pulled right into the role and I could feel her happiness and that she was in love  and when she felt pain, I somehow felt it a bit too.  However, I can’t get past that Kevin Costner isn’t really the guy for this role.  I mean, he’s a charming man but he was just in pain through the whole role and it seemed like even when he was happy, I wasn’t fully sold that Garret was in love with Theresa.  The only part I felt that way was their kisses.  That affects the whole dynamic of the movie for me.

message in a bottle jacket

THE best part of the movie was Paul Newman in the supporting role as Garret’s father, Dodge.  That man can act.  He was all sorts of awesome.  He brought in some humor and in the last part when he was having an argument (kind of) with Garret, that really touched me.  Actually all the scenes between Dodge and Theresa or Dodge with Garret or Dodge and other characters were really strong.

There really is nothing wrong with the movie but I really think I should have watched this when I was younger because then I wouldn’t ask the initial question of, “If I were to run along the beach, would I go picking up a bottle sticking in the sand?” I’m a curious person but I don’t go around picking up empty bottles.  Maybe I’d give it a second though because it would be amazing to actually find a message in a bottle.

What I’m saying is that, Message in a Bottle isn’t a bad romance.  The source material does give it a stronger presence.  If you need any reason to watch this, its to watch the gorgeous Robin Wright act and to see the awesomeness of Paul Newman.  Its a touching movie and the final scene is pretty good, its really just the beginning that kind of stretches a bit slower and can get boring.  It can feel lengthy since its over 2 hours long.  Still, if you like romances and Nicholas Sparks, its a decent one 🙂

Have you seen Message in a Bottle? Or maybe you read the novel? What do you think of Robin Wright and/or Kevin Costner?