Tuesday, February 16, 2010

"Dear John": a "perfect love story" fractured by 9/11, and lots of misfortunes


A lot of English novels were set up of sets of letters, and “Dear John” tries that concept as the middle section of a romantic wartime drama. The film, directed by Lasse Hallstrom, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, comes from Sony Screen Gems (why not Columbia or Tri-Star?)

The basic story reminds me of “Splendor in the Grass” a half-century ago. John (Channing Tatum), an Army Special Forces ranger, falls in love with Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), a student a conservative Christian college in Charleston, S.C. , who loves to do volunteer work (for Habitat for Humanity) and wants to teach special education. That sits well with John, whose father (Richard Jenkins), obsessed with coin collecting and archaic cooking, seems to have Asperger’s Syndrome. “My dad’s not normal”, John says, but neither is anyone else in the movie, which helps explain why 9/11, which happens in the middle (while John is in Iraq) eventually takes them apart. Savannah gets with a rival of John, who is crushed by receiving her words in Afghanistan by letter. But then that “rival” will get cancer, rounding out the tragedy, while John, re-upping repeatedly, survives wounds and numerous battles.

The 9/11 part is presented minimally, where John watches a television screen, and Savannah walks out onto the campus lawn and sees everyone’s cell phone going off.

There is a cagey line in the script about "asking and telling" but about a different issue. The "unit cohesion" within the special forces units is demonstrated in the quick-take episodes of John overseas. Before 9/11, special forces had clandestine missions in many locations.

John's re-enlistments remind me of the movie "Stop-Loss" (Paramount, 2008, dir. Kimberly Peirce).

Sony pictures offers an embeddable trailer, which follows:

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