Note: This post might contain spoilers about Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember and Nights in Rodanthe.
I really like the 4 movies I mentioned above. They feature talented and beautiful stars, they are beautifully directed and they have been adapted from the works of the same author: Nicholas Sparks. I have never read him, and I am not exactly tempted to. I am romantic and I like my emotional stories. I am also big fan of escapism- I like the movies that take us to a more beautiful place. But Sparks does seem to like giving this feeling and then abrubtly taking it away.
Let’s go over the movies shortly, shall we?
*Message in a Bottle (1999)
Starring: Kevin Costner, Robyn Wright-Penn
Garret Blake (Costner) is a sailor and he builds boats for a living. He is yet to overcome his beloved wife’s death. He has written love letters to her and sent them out into the open sea.
Theresa (Penn) finds the letters on the beach and decides to find the writer. She is a single mother- and having previously been cheated on, she wants to find the man who is so in love with his wife. And being a journalist, she does convince her boss that it is a business trip.
When she does get to meet Garret, she of course can’t tell him the truth. Garret is attracted to this fragile and beautiful stranger- the first woman he has ever felt close to after the loss of his wife. Theresa was already in love with the idea of the man. Real Garret only exceeded her expectations…
So two previously hurt people find love again. It is beautiful. We sail, laugh and cry with them. Of course they have obstacles. Theresa lives in the city and has a son, plus she can’t really get over feeling that he will never love her the way that he loved his wife…And he is bound to find out how Theresa got to find him… Couldn’t we have just sorted out these and moved along? Couldn’t we have let these likable characters be happy? Well, I could… But Nick had other ideas. It is a lovely story. But the truth is if you are looking for realism, why would you watch this in the first place? How many people love so unconditionally like that? How many people love like that for the second time? (in Theresa’s case-Garret might be her only true love) And what are the odds that they are going to look like Wright-Penn and most of all- Kevin Costner? So if we have let go all of the cynism and stretched our imaginations so far, why not let us have a happy ending?
* A Walk to Remember (2002)
Starring: Shane West, Mandy Moore
Yeah, of course you have all heard it before. Bad Boy. Good Girl. They fall in love. It turns out Bad Boy is actually a great guy- given the faith and chance. But…Before the but, let’s describe the good and bad in this movie.
The bad boy is Landon Carter. He is your typical angry and popular teenagers. His grades are low, the headmaster isn’t too fond of him, the girls love him,hates his father who left him and his mom for another woman and of course he thinks being unpopular is worse than death.
But one day he gets into trouble he can’t get out of, and the headmaster has the pleasure to make him do everything he despises. As if it is not enough that the trouble gave him temporary crutches…
Jamie is everything Landon isn’t. Nice, unpopular,uncool,a religious virgin.They have known and despised each other for a long time. But now, Landon has to play the lead in the theater group,tutor kids with learning problems- basically has to turn to Jamie for help. At some point though, they get to be less judgemental about each other and even get to be some sort of friends.
However Landon doesn’t seem to be ready to leave his previous lifestyle and lets his friends believe he is definitely not friends with Jamie-right in front of her. At the play night, Landon will realize not only he misses Jamie’s friendship, but that he is attracted to her…
Everyone is shocked- his friends, Jamie, him,…Now he has to prove to Jamie that he is not the bad-ass she thinks he is. He gets the chance when his friends play a horrible joke on Jamie and he sticks with Jamie, leaving his group. He persuades Jamie and her dad (the priest) to go on a date. OK- since I really like this movie, I can gladly explain why the clichés do not bother me:
1) Jamie isn’t quite an uckly duckling. For one thing, she is not ugly, just plain. For two, She just doesn’t believe in expressing herself with clothes. She sings and shows her beauty at the play and yet doesn’t maintain the glamorous attitude afterwards.
2) Landon only hates his father- he is actually helping out his mom at home.
3) Jamie shows him just like he sees her as a loser, she does see him as loser who will have nothing in life after high school. And as they are forced to spend time together, they realize that maybe things aren’t so black and white…
After this, it is so romantic. They go on dates, they have great fun together- Landon respects Jamie’s boundaires.
Perfect. Landon turns out from the guy who you would wanna have sex with yet wouldn’t be able to have a relationship from to the most amazing boyfriend on the planet. Does it last? Of course not. Jamie tells Landon one big secret that turns his life upside down. She has cancer. She has had it for a long time. And she is not responding to treatment. Landon is crushed. He is bitter and he is furious. I would be to. You fall in love head over heels and to find out you are going to lose that person forever? Life’s way of giving you the bird. He even asks for his dad’s help. But he can’t go around being angry at Jamie, right? She might die anytime…
So he sticks by her bed. He tries to do everything she has ever wanted. He makes her happy. It is great. Seriously. Previous asshole is the soulmate we have been dreaming about. And he looks like Shane West. Too unrealistic. So let’s kill the girl and make it even…
* The Notebook (2004)
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams
Two time frame frames. Present, retirement home. Past, a rich girl (Allie) falling for the poor boy(Noah). They are mad about each other. They fight a lot but they can’t and won’t stay away from each other.
Somehow her mother manages to drive a wedge, yet neither of them forgets. We get to hear their story from the notebook the old guy in the retirement home is reading to the old woman. She loves the story of these two lovers who cross paths years later- when his name is on the newspapers for a lovely restoration he has made. She is about to be engaged to a guy she actually loves. But she can’t resist the urge to talk to him. The house belongs to both their pasts. So she visits him. They get to let out their feelings, and face why they were driven apart. Then Noah wants her to leave her fiancé- she is torn. But her feelings for Noah are just too strong…
It is beautiful. They stayed together. They had lovely children. They are still togeter- in the retirement home. You see, the guy is Noah- reading the story to Allie. How can you not be touched by that? Where’s the drama, you ask? Noah has to read the story to her over and over again because she has Alzheimer’s and she has no clue who he is. She flashes and remembers maybe for a minute- and then she forgets again…
Lovely,touching and tragic. It might be how it happens in real life. We don’t get to be in love forever, I get that. But sometimes I feel like the sad parts are thrown in just to make you cry. I love the movie, just like I love the ones mentioned above. Still, couldn’t have Allie remembered? Couldn’t she have a more managable disease and have her memory??? Of course, it wouldn’t be so powerful but…you get the point.
* Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Starring: Richard Gere, Diane Lane
Actors are supposed to play all kinds of parts but let’s be honest, some actors do some roles better than others. And Richard Gere is great at drama- especially he is playing a romantic role. In Nights in Rodanthe, Richard plays a doctor named Paul. He is staying at the inn for a couple of nights. He is an unhappy man- he is being sued, his grown son doesn’t like him…
The only other person at the inn is Adrienne (Diane Lane), looking after the place for a friend. She is not having the time of her life either. Her husband has left for another woman now wants forgiveness, her daughter isn’t fond of her and her son has a condition…
They find it easy to get along, to open up to each other. They understand what being a parent is….They know about disappointments and mistakes. They truly see each other and they fall in love. It is the kind of romance that you dream about.
And it is so easy to fall in love with Gere. 59 at the movie, he is still hot. Diane Lane is also naturally beautiful. You like them. You don’t want them to be apart. But Paul has to do one thing before they can be together in the long run- he has to go see his son, renconcile with him and help him with his patients.
Long distance doesn’t ruin things. To the contrary. It empowers their feelings. They are looking forward to meeting again. The day finally comes. But Paul doesn’t. The next day, the door bell rings and Adrienne gets to meet his son. He doesn’t have good news…
Yes, Sparks did it again. He took the lovely fantasy and took it away in the end.
How am I supposed to read his work- when I know there’s a 99% chance at least one main character will die? Where is the fun in that?