When Theresa finds a message in a bottle with a beautifully sad love note in it, it piques her interest in the writer. She tracks down Garrett, a widower and boat restorer and they embark on their own love story. But Garrett’s inability to move on from the death of his wife threatens to end it all in tragedy. Will they find love before it’s too late? Find out in… Message in a Bottle.
How?! It’s a message in a bottle, baby. Come… come… come on and let it out. And that’s exactly what divorcee Theresa does when she finds such a bottle on a Cape Cod beach. Inside is a beautiful and yet sad love note to a long lost love. Theresa brings it back to her Chicago newspaper office and her boss subsequently publishes it in his column. Initially angered by this, the response to the letter and the fact that it results in the discovery of two other letters by the same writer make Theresa all the more excited to find the author. Tracking him down to North Carolina, she heads there and meets Garrett, a soft spoken widower who lost his wife three years prior. Taking care of his alcoholic father, Garrett’s life has stalled as he has attempted to preserve the memory of his wife in every aspect. But sparks fly when he meets Theresa and suddenly he’s taking her sailing and doing all kinds of things that he would have thought impossible. When Theresa heads back to Chicago she fears it’s the end of the affair, only to be surprised when Garrett decides to visit. They have a wonderful time, particularly in regards to Garrett’s ability to relate to her young son, but on their final night together he discovers the copies of his letters in her nightstand. He is shocked and wonders whether this was all a scheme by a journalist to get a story, but is even more shocked when it’s revealed that there are three letters… he only wrote two! The other was the final note written by his wife before her death. With this closure he is able to move on with his life and finish building a sailing boat that he designed for her. After seeing him complete the boat, Theresa tells him to call her when and if he feels ready to move on. Shortly thereafter he writes a final letter to his wife telling her he’s ready to move on with Theresa and heads out into a storm. Before turning back, though, he finds another boat in distress and tragically dies attempting to rescue the sailors. Theresa and everyone, including the viewer, are real sad because this is Sad Love by Nicholas Sparks. THE END.
Why?! Love… or more accurately getting over love. Both Theresa and Garrett are getting over lost loves in different ways. Theresa has recently divorced, while Garrett lost his wife. Now they kind of have to heal each other with the power of love. Unfortunately for them this is also a Nicholas Sparks novel so death is always right around the corner to snatch that sad love away.
Who?! There are a couple great little casting tidbits in this guy. First off there is a kinda nerdy looking dude that a friend of Theresa’s is like “yo, girl get on that accountant… he’s a real successful accountant or something,” and Theresa is like thanks but no thanks. That guy is the Director of Photography, Caleb Deschanel… yes, that Caleb Deschanel. The father of Zooey and Bones. Then the little girl that Garrett saves from the sinking boat at the end (before tragically dying) was played by a young Hayden Panettiere.
What?! This is a Budweiser film. Full Stop. Paul Newman plays Garrett’s father and he’s a recovering alcoholic who is allowed a beer a day. His beer of choice: Bud, of course. They are so delicious and refreshing that Garrett has to count them daily and pay the local kids to watch his father so he doesn’t slake his thirst a little too much.
Where?! North Carolina meet Chicago, cause we get some pretty sweet settings in this guy, particularly in the many sights and sounds of Chicago. Funny because the novel had Theresa based in Boston, which makes a little more sense in her finding the bottle, but I think I get why they made the change… it seems a bit odd in the book that Garrett seems totally unwilling to move to Massachusetts. It’s not that different from North Carolina given his passion in life is sailing. B+
When?! I couldn’t really find a specific date for this one, although I think it runs similar to the book. She discovers the message in the bottle during the summer when her son is off with his father during summer break. Then she heads down to NC at the tail end of summer. After that it’s a couple months of distance dating before sometime in the winter he launches the boat. We know from his note that he launched “on the 25th.” I presume January as Theresa’s first article in the paper appears next to a couple articles from early January 1998… so it’s tenuous, but that’s where I place it. C-.
Saaad Love. I guess I appreciate the fact that the film didn’t pull the punch of the book and have Garrett live or something. But it is pretty rough stuff to have the whole book be like “isn’t love grand… until it’s shattered by death?” and then expect the reader to be like “but at least she loved, right?” I don’t know… still pretty sad. The book was fine and the film was fine. I guess I wish there was more to it than that. I thought Robin Wright was pretty good and charming, but Kevin Costner probably needed to give me a bit more than mumbling along and looking like he’s carved out of wood. Make me feel that Draft Day Jennifer Garner spark, Kevin Costner. Anyway, Nicholas Sparks was just starting out and didn’t yet have the clout to throw around his “yes, there is a ghost in Safe Haven and we’re keeping it in the film” weight. So pretty straight forward. Patrick?
‘Ello everyone! He’s a message in a bottle baby, come on and let Kevin Costner out. Let’s go!
P’s View on the Preview – The OG Sparks, it is a little stunning to realize that basically every Nicholas Sparks adaptation has gotten bad reviews besides The Notebook (and even that only got 53% on Rotten Tomatoes). We’ve seen his most recent for BMT already as well, The Choice. He seems to have slowed down with writing, he only wrote two novels since 2016. Can’t have bad adaptations if you don’t write novels I suppose, real 3D chess moves. What were my expectations? It is a bit weird, because prior to watching the trailer I legit thought the film was just about a lonely dude who threw bottles in the ocean. But it is about a broken dude who just needs that one special lady to mend his broken heart. Awwwwwww. I expected to weep uncontrollably in my living room.
The Good – I’ve seen quite a few Kevin Costner films over the past few months and years, both good and bad. And unlike something like Wyatt Earp (where his acting is almost a joke, especially as “young” Wyatt Earp), I feel like Message in a Bottle is directly in his wheelhouse. You can moan about the writing and ridiculous situations good actors are put into, but the actors themselves I think are doing their best with what they are given. The vistas are nice, always love a good Cape Cod / NC crossover, real Dawson’s Creek vibes. Best Bit: Setting.
The Bad – I can see why critics hated this film. It is a total waste of a decent story and some decent actors with situations and a plot which gives them nothing to really work with, and at worst (like in the end) launches itself into pure melodrama. I know they need to be like “I’m sad and forever broken, vague allegories about religion and forever love” because it is a Nicholas Sparks novel, but, again, I think the critics are mostly right in that the ending of the book and thus film let down what is otherwise a decent story. I will say that the “man’s man who never speaks and is so broken he lives with the ghost of his dead wife” doesn’t age well. The guy doesn’t need love, he needs a therapist and to actually work through his feelings instead of bottling them up (and throwing them in the ocean). Fatal Flaw: Poor ending.
The BMT – We’ll work through all the Nicholas Sparks novels, even if they are done one Based on a Book cycle at a time. There is also something about Kevin Costner here. Something magical about just how 90s his stardom was. You can watch him anchor a three hour epic in JFK and be completely lost in his character come to life, and then watch Wyatt Earp and be like “what the hell is he doing with his mouth … is he wearing fake teeth, what is happening?” Did it meet my expectations? Not really. I found Costner’s character so closed off and broken that I actually started to become concerned about his mental state. Surely this is just a changing mentality towards depression over the past 25 years, but still, it made it difficult to fully invest in the tragic love story which was so obviously being force fed to me. I didn’t shed a single tear. Now, that’s a tragedy.
Roast-radamus – Big Product Placement (What?) energy as both Costner and Newman guzzle Budweiser while giving each other haircuts and whatnot. That’s how you know Kevin Costner was made in America, he drinks all-American delicious Budweiser. Great Setting as a Character (Where?) for Chicago (where Robin Wright lives), Cape Cod (where she finds the bottle), and North Carolina (where every Nicholas Sparks book is contractually obligated to be set). At least part of this film is secretly during July 4, but nary a firework is to be seen. Disappointing. Closest to Good.
Sequel, Prequel, Remake – This is an easy Netflix series. The first four episodes are from two different periods of time. Flashbacks to the two years prior and two years after Catherine’s death in North Carolina. And simultaneously the discovery of the first bottle, and then hunt for the other two bottles he sent out dealing with his love and loss of Catherine. Then the trip to North Carolina and a recap of that last year of his life mid-season. The final six episodes are then effectively the movie. The meet cute, dating in North Carolina, the trip to Chicago, one episode which is just the sex scene over and over in black and white (this is directed by David Lynch) … fine it is the big dramatic blow up about the story, the big dramatic finale, and then a closing episode wrapping things up. Boom, beautiful. Why aren’t there more Nicholas Sparks television shows? They seem really easy and cheap to make overall.
You Just Got Schooled – We are still working through the Hall of Fame. This week? Oooooooo Endless Luuuuuuuuuurv (the 2014 one, but of course I rewatched the 1981 one as well, get right on outta here!).