Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE

Directed by Luis Mandoki (1999, Warner Bros.)
Starring Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, and Paul Newman

A woman falls in love with the letters a man writes his dead wife, and then again when they meet.

View Count: Twice

 

 

3+ stars+

September 15th, 2002 on TV

 
    A soft and warm romantic comedy, this film did seem to sag a little in the middle, as the couple went through the inevitable fight scene and agonizing.

One of the best parts about this film was the main character's realization that the person she has fallen in love with can never love her without some serious soul-searching. Garret is still obsessed with his dead wife, Catherine. Teresa knows that if they get together, she will always be competing with Catherine. Every time she thinks she is getting through to him, she discovers another barrier, one that even Garret may not have known about, and he relapses. But relapse is not really a good word, because his love for his wife was unconditional, forming such a strong bond that it could simply take years and years to get over her death, and the guilt of not being able to do more for her. So Teresa finds that she has to play counselor first, before she can become a lover.

Costner as Garret is very quiet and subdued, which almost makes the character boring to watch. He is socially inept, but quick to anger, which is an emotion that he probably understands best. But when Teresa comes into his world, drawn by the baring of his soul in letters never meant to be read, he actually tries. When he finds out that she read those letters, he gets very angry, but he is still too much of a gentleman to do anything more than glare and question her about it. Unfortunately, I didn't think he quite pulled off the character that he was supposed to be playing. Just putting him beside the beautiful sea and quiet scenery didn't make him sensitive. I guess the poetic sensitivity was on the inside.

I couldn't believe how forward Teresa was, throughout the movie, however. She approached Dodge and Garret right away, and threw herself into Garret's world, and then into his bed! She obviously knew what she wanted, but she was on the rebound from discovering her husband with another woman some time ago.

The two actors made an emotional couple together, though. The shock and guilt that Teresa feels when Garret stumbles across the letters shows extremely well. The finding of the letters could have been more subtle, as the camera work didn't really make sense of what he was doing opening that drawer in the first place. Sure, the cloth was caught, but it took a short moment to figure it out.

With the parting of spirits comes the realization that they need each other. But it is too late for Garret, who finishes building his boat "Catherine". Teresa gave him a letter that was written by his wife, just before she died, thrown into the ocean just like his letters, that explained that she knew death was coming, and that she was satisfied with her life with her soul-mate. He has finally come to terms with her death, thanks to the persistent (but caring) advances of Teresa, but when she sees him launch his boat from afar, she doesn't realize this.

When he finally decides to propose to her, he takes his boat out to sea for one last message for Catherine, but she takes his life, as he tries to rescue a troubled boat on stormy waters. That twist was very unexpected, but knowing (now) a little more of Nicolas Sparks' writing style in his novels (Joanne has read all of them), somebody always dies at the end, making them all tragedies. There is no happy ending here, so be prepared for tears.

The very best part of this movie was Paul Newman. He played the character of Dodge to absolute perfection. He was a pain in the ass, but in a caring way. He knew what kind of love Teresa had for his son, and tried to make sure that Garret didn't let her get away, because he knew his son's personality. Every time the actor was on the screen, he livened it up, whether in yelling at Garret or Catherine's parents (threatening to tear up her paintings was a high point in showcasing the character), or taking a sudden walk with Teresa across the beach. His concern and love were terrific to watch, and I wonder if that's why I found the middle section to drag on a bit -he wasn't in it.

I thought the turnaround of Catherine's parents was way too quick, though. Sure, Garret returned the paintings, but is that enough to erase years of animosity? A good step, yes. Did he show them the letter -or give them a photocopy? We don't know. Suddenly Catherine's brother shows up and silently helps Garret work on his boat. It is an emotionally satisfying scene, but doesn't really work unless you realize that Garret must have done something besides returning the paintings.

Despite the small complaints, I think this is a fine, romantic movie, with an emotional punch that is different from others of the same sort.
 

 

3+ stars+

May 19th, 1999 in the Theatre

 
    A beautiful movie. It follows a standard romantic story, but puts a neat twist into it, with the messages to the dead wife.  Wright-Penn was wonderful, and Costner was good, too. I do wish another concept would come up besides falling love then fight, then fall back in love. The tragedy theme was unexpected, though, and I thought it was well thought out.  
   

Back to Top

All reviews and page designs at this site Copyright (c)  by Warren Dunn, all rights reserved.