The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

Dear John

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Chick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-yellow-smChick-O-Meter-grey-smChick-O-Meter-grey-smChick-O-Meter-grey-sm Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an English tutor for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also a consultant for Columbia College Chicago in Adjunct Faculty Affairs
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Dear John

“Dear John,

This is the hardest letter I have ever had to write. The last thing I want to do is hurt you…”

Although the film doesn’t begin with this stereotypical missive, you’ll find it eventually delivered within the uninspired plot. Adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), Dear John holds no surprises but also no particular interest for the viewer.

There really is a John in the person of John Tyree (Channing Tatum), a special ops enlistee spending his last two weeks of freedom on a Charleston beach before being deployed. He meets and is struck by a silent thunderbolt of attraction for Savannah (Amanda Seyfried) and the two begin a whirlwind romance complete with background music and long meaningful stares.

Then John is off to a military assignment so secret, he can’t share it. Savannah is off to college. The two lovebirds are separated but vow to write letters (snail mail, too) as often as they can. Letters pile up and are savored (and saved) by both parties. If you think that’s pretty exciting, wait until you sit through watching it happen

As it turns out, we learn that John is a big, macho guy, but can be reduced to tears easily. He’s got a father (Richard Jenkins) obsessed with a coin collecting hobby and apparently afflicted with some type of undiagnosed impairment which causes social withdrawal and a dependency on routines. He unfailingly makes lasagna for dinner on Sunday; Saturday is always meatloaf.

Savannah’s college major is special education, so she immediately pegs Mr. Tyree as a case study. The there’s a neighbor Ted (Henry Thomas) who has an AWOL wife and an autistic son; another case study. Savannah is on a noble path to fix broken people, but can she fix her own heart? Forgive me, I just lapsed into the film’s spin for a moment; all better now.

When 9/11 happens, John immediately reenlists, keeping him away from home, to Savannah’s dismay. Years pass. The two yearn for each other as letters come and go. Will she wait for him? Oops, the title gives it away, but I won’t. Suffice it to say that the two spend unendurable amounts of time (for them as well as the audience) apart until John gets the fateful letter (hey, his name IS John – what a coincidence!) that changes everything.

What passes for a big twist in our lovers’ tale is simply a convenient plot contrivance, making the whole film pointless. The accompanying gesture to this development would be a shrug, not a shout. You are not made to care whether these two get back together or find new partners, and you leave the theater unchanged by the experience of meeting them. It’s left to macho man John to supply all the tears and angst. Savannah simply takes another path that she can justify to herself. Whether you will buy it is up to you.

Channing Tatum is sincere enough, but just as stuck in the sappy script as co-star Amanda Seyfried. They make a good-looking but unconvincing couple, hardly tortured by separation; it’s more of a bummer, and that’s hardly anything to write home about.

Richard Jenkins as the elderly, ritually fixated Mr. Tyree portrays the most interesting character in the film, full of fear and good intentions; knowing that something is terribly wrong with him but not understanding what, and retreating to numismatic comforts like misfit coins to which he can relate.

Henry Thomas is a welcome presence here, still retaining the face of the kid who hid E.T. His character unfortunately is merely a handy means to inject urgent situations into the home front that awaits John’s return.

Director Lasse Hallstrom (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape) is undetectable in the proceedings. If there are any attempts at injecting deep meaning into the mush, it quickly recedes like the tide on South Carolina’s shores. The result is an uninteresting trance of a film which, unlike the reliable Post Office, fails to deliver the goods.

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