MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE
This is typical Costner, but I can't blame him--he didn't write
this one. The script was written by Gerald Di Pego, adapted from
the novel by Nicholas Sparks. Surely, though, Costner's history
with this kind of movie is what convinced director Luis Mandoki
that he'd be perfect for the role of tragic hero Garret Blake.
Oh, yeah and the fact that his company, Tig Productions,
financed the film. But, sappy or not, Message In A Bottle
is a nice experience (not to mention beautifully filmed), mainly
thanks to Robin Wright (The Princess Bride, Forrest
Gump), who plays opposite Costner. Wright (credited as Robin
Wright Penn, since her marriage to Sean) puts forth a compelling
performance full of spontanaeity and relaxed energy that really
makes the couple's growing relationship a pleasure to watch. Costner
is his usual monosyllabic, monotone self, but it is Wright who
deserves credit for keeping the tear-jerker nausea factor to a
When Chicago newspaper researcher Theresa Osborne (Wright)
is vacationing in New England, she discovers a bottle on the beach
with a note inside. When she reads the badly typewritten page,
it is the most tragic, beautiful love letter she has ever seen.
A man whose wife has died declares that he is lost without her
that she was his "true north." Sailor talk, you
know. She shows it to her co-worker (Illeana Douglas), they share
an "oh, how romantic" session, and think that's the
end of it. But when her boss (Robbie Coltrane) puts it in his
editorial column, the paper gets tons of letters. One is from
someone who found a similar missive, written on the same stationery.
Intrigued, Theresa decides to try to track down the sender of
the sea-borne valentines, and ends up on the doorstep of Garret
Living with Garret is his crotchety father Dodge (Paul Newman),
a recovering alcoholic who's been through his own personal wringer.
All adult romances have this character at least one of
the leads always needs a parent to say, "What's the matter
with you? Don't let her slip away! Why, if I was 30 years younger,
. . ." etc. After a brief period of uncomfortable silences,
Garret and Theresa get busy tangling tongues and marshmallow fighting.
But she learns that Garret has not properly dealt with Catherine's
death, and there are other problems involving the entire community.
So she must decide whether to get mixed up in his complicated
life or just go back to Chicago after a few rolls in the sand.
What could have been another Costner feel-fest has been helped immeasurably by Robin Wright. Thanks to her easy style, this film is not just wet, but substantial and satisfying like many other bottled goods. ****
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