Ossus Library Index Drama Movie Index


Directed by Adam Shankman (2002, Warner Bros.)
Starring Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Coyote, and Daryl Hannah

After serving public service for a prank gone wrong, a teen boy comes to realize love from the kindness of an outcast girl.



4 stars

August 5th, 2006 on DVD, for the 3rd time

    I wonder if there are any truly innocent movies about true love developing between two people these days. One of the reasons that Nicolas Sparks movies and especially the books, sell so well is because the love is natural, the characters are true, and people don't hurt each other or believe stupid things like "I'm not good enough for you". The drama comes naturally, and the reasons that they have to reconcile and make up come about because of an illness. Jamie is afraid that once Landon learns about her illness, he will stop loving her -a real fear- and one that Landon makes her face right away by doing the right thing. He doesn't mope around. He sees his father (of course he doesn't understand that doctors have specialties) to find help, then forces her to realize that he loves her no matter what. For Jamie's part, once she sees that the love is still there, she runs back into Landon's arms.

Are there any good love stories out there these days? Ones where the people aren't stupid and take offence at, say lies that were told in good faith and not because they were trying to hurt the other person? I liked Failure to Launch, but it had the typical problem of one person taking offence instead of discussing it. Falling in love under false pretenses does not mean that the love isn't real, as all movies seem to present to us. This movie is different, and it comes across as fresh because of it. 



4 stars

July 13th, 2002 on DVD, for the second time

    I still agree with everything that I wrote below, from the first time I saw this film.

I think the actors were very strong, both at portraying Landon, while he was being "popular", and when he was being changed, more responsible. He did a great job at portraying emotion, curiosity, anger, resentment, and so on. For Jamie's part, she knew that she was not popular, had no problem with it, and never expected to fall in love. And when she does, completely by accident, she starts to drown in her emotions, too. As she says, "I don't need a reason to be angry with God". The emotional punch that this scene gives, as powerful as it is, is still no match for the following one, in which Landon tells Jamie's father that he's not going anywhere; he won't leave Jamie just because she has leukemia. He loves her, and it shows how far he's come, how much Jamie has inspired him.

When we saw this film in the theatre, there was not a dry eye in the place by the end of it. At home, in our living room, tears once again erupted. It was a natural reaction, because both characters made us care so deeply for them. It was not caused by sad music or any manipulation. It was simply a situation that we were forced to feel empathy for.

I liked this movie even more than I did the first time I saw it. Sure, there were many situations where the awkward teenager came out, and seemed to weaken the film a little. But those moments were short, and were more than made up for by the emotions that this movie produced.

This is very much a character story. It definitely shows how far Landon has traveled in growing up from the beginning to the end of the film. But others show that they can be responsible, too. My favorite character aside from the leads was Eric, Landon's best friend. He added some great comedy to the beginning, and he doesn't take offence when Landon tells him that he's in love with Jamie, and doesn't feel the need to be part of the popular group any more. And his speech that he didn't understand, but now he does, after finding out about Jamie's disease, was terrific.

It was really hard to believe that this was the same Mandy Moore that we saw in Princess Diaries. She did a terrific job in both, of course, but here, she's so serious, so withdrawn. I was amazed. She brings an innocence to Jamie, who has accepted her fate, who thinks she might be bad at kissing, and who has just the cutest face when telling Landon that she's not seducible.

Of course, I still have to complain about the astronomy! Romantic as it might seem, naming a star after somebody is still silly. But that is overshadowed by the fact that they still leave all the lights on when observing, the comet actually moves (and that is not an image of Hyakutake), and there is no way they could see the whole comet through the field of view of that telescope. Naked eye was the way to see that comet in full. Still, I liked the way she had an astronomy demonstration for the science fair (when did that take place?), and yes, a bigger telescope will yield more detail, not a more "powerful" one. She got that right!

The rest of the DVD is not very special. There were no deleted scenes, no behind-the-scenes specials. We got to see the music video for Mandy Moore's "Cry", which was also uninspiring. And the trailer sure gives a lot of the movie away, though thankfully it stays away from revealing Jamie's problem. There are two audio commentaries. The first one is by the director, Mandy Moore, and Shane West. They all sound very immature. Moore is very bubbly, constantly saying "oh my god!" and such. It was fun and full of energy for a little while, but then it became too much to handle. The second commentary is by the original author of the book, Nicolas Sparks, and the screenwriter for the film. How did they get those two in the same room! We didn't watch much of it, but I was rather unimpressed by most of what we did see.

Still, it's nice to have the movie in widescreen, and there are still some insights into the film on those commentaries. I was surprised to be very impressed with the movie for the second time! It truly was a walk to remember.


4 stars

February 5th, 2002 in the Theatre


This is a three-star movie masquerading as a four-star movie.  Or is it the other way around?  Anyway, although the teen angle at the beginning seemed a little weak, and the astronomy was pretty screwed up, I loved the love story, and the actors brought the movie way up because of their abilities.

I am a sucker for a good love story.  I always have been.  Turn one of the characters into a reclusive geek, throw some astronomy into the mix, and I will have a hard time disliking the movie.  Add to this the way the film treats the characters with respect, break the cliché of the way "boy loses girl", and we have a winner.  

I was always the geek who was picked on by the popular people at high school.  Maybe not picked on, but definitely talked about.  I never cared, though.  I knew who I was, who I wanted to be, and it rarely bothered me.  I loved astronomy (which is always portrayed as a geek's hobby), and I loved Star Wars -I would even wear my Han Solo vest to school and keep it on all day.  People talked, but I never cared what other people thought of me.  I had my own friends, and they were really good friends.

That's why I always loved movies like "Can't Buy Me Love" from the 1980s.  That's what gave this movie a good head start on me.  But there are lots of movies out there dealing with the geek who gets the girl, and I wouldn't sit through them.  One example is the current movie Slackers, which I have no desire to see.  And I was worried about the beginning of the film, which showed how far Landon had to go.  But it was worth it.  A weak beginning is easier to forgive than a weak ending.  This one started out weak, but grew stronger as it progressed, becoming very strong by the end.  

Jamie Sullivan is an outcast.  Not because she's ugly or fat.  Not even because she is the Minister's daughter, sporting beliefs that are not politically correct.  She is very pretty, in fact beautiful.  She is shy, however, and has no desire to fit in, which is the one thing people think they can't afford in high school.  She has her faith in God, and she keeps to her own hobbies, which tend to keep her isolated.  She sings in the church choir, tutors disabled children, and participates in the drama and science activities offered at school.  She has some friends, though we don't explicitly meet them, and they are about as quiet as she is.  They don't make a mark on the school, except as gossip fodder and people at whom the "upper class" looks down on.

Landon is the guy who everybody wants to be friends with.  He is too cool for a lot of people, and is happy to make smart remarks about others and their appearances, Jamie's among them.  But it seems that he makes his friends go through an initiation, a jump off a factory scaffold into a pool of water.  Something goes horribly wrong, however, when the new "friend" hits a pipe under water, and ends up in the hospital.  I suppose the victim didn't tell what happened, so nobody can prove it was Landon's responsibility.  As punishment for drinking on school property beforehand, however, the school principal makes Landon do janitorial stuff, tutor disadvantaged kids, and take part in the school play.  

All of this, of course, puts him in close proximity with Jamie, who holds no resentment towards him, but is clearly aware of what kind of person he is.  Surprisingly, it is Jamie who takes the first step.  She notices that he is having trouble tutoring his student, and offers advice.  He ignores her.  She drives him home when his lift doesn't show up (he's still suffering from the accident at the beginning of the movie), citing "number 42" on her list of things to do in life: "befriend somebody you don't like".  She helps him practice his lines for the play, but cuts off his time after he denounces her in front of his friends.  He follows her into a cemetery (clearly not comfortable with the idea) as she sets up her telescope.  Somehow, she has piqued his interest, even though he doesn't quite realize it.  

The moment he does realize it comes during the school play.  He forgets his lines after seeing her walk onto the stage, wearing an elegant gown, with her hair down.  He tells her she's beautiful, and at the very end, kisses her.  Nobody knows whether this is actually part of the play.  Her father worries, his ex-girlfriend is horrified.  His best friend is intrigued.  

I liked his best friend.  He was popular, and played the part of "superior" well, but also came down to earth and was always there for his friend, except when the two were falling in love, when he didn't understand what was going on.  By the end, he figures out what kind of love is between Landon and Jamie.

As for the love story itself, it worked extremely well.  She knows what kind of person he is, and so does he.  But he is changing, and as much as she is afraid of it, she knows that he is changing.  For the better.  He knocks out another friend after they distributed flyers with Jamie's face and a sexy body on it.  He arranges to have a star named after her (yes, there is a company that will do that, but it is far from official -only you and your small circle of friends will recognize the name as genuine, because this company has no standing in the astronomical world).  And he brings two blankets to their observation night (after asking "are your seducible?"), when they stay out all night long, stargazing, and holding each other.  Dinner and dancing was also amazing.

The story really treats the characters with respect.  This is why when Jamie drops her bombshell, it really hurts.  She had reasons for telling Landon not to fall in love with her.  There was a reason she was not allowed to date.  She has leukemia, and has stopped responding to therapy.  

The actor does a really good job of acting angry with the world.  The character has just found true love, has just found peace, and he will lose it if she dies.  I suppose all of his former friends found out about her illness, because they suddenly turn sappy and sensitive.  His ex-girlfriend becomes tender, his other friends help him with Jamie's stuff.  It's really nice to see, though probably a little unrealistic.  

But he overcomes his grief, especially in seeing the way that Jamie doesn't grieve.  He fills her doorstep with flowers, and builds her a new, larger telescope.  He learns to dance, for her.  He shows her how to be in two places at once (straddling the state line), and gives her a press-on tattoo, which were things on her to-do list.  He even makes a to-do list of his own!

Finally, when she is well enough to observe with her new telescope (without turning off the porch lights, I might add, which would destroy any chance at observing anything), in a moment long-awaited by the audience (myself included), he asks her to marry him.  For number one on her to-do list was get married in the church where her parents got married.  Besides, it's true love!

She last the summer, and is then gone, like a shining comet, from his life.  

I think there were only a few dry eyes in the theatre, but I am happy to say that the film doesn't really manipulate the emotions as much as the emotions are drawn out, because these two people are so well-developed.  As her father says, Landon was Jamie's miracle.  I was worried that her miracle (another thing on her list) would be recovery because of him, but I was glad the movie didn't go that route.  I knew as soon as he saw her yearbook caption that he would be her miracle.  

Joanne had of course read the book, and though some things are different, she absolutely loved the movie.  I thought the love story was masterfully done.  The beginning was weak, and the musical interludes featuring the singer-turned-actress were a little obvious and long.  They did feature well into the story, however.  Normally, I would give this type of movie three stars, because that's what it deserves.  But I loved the love story so much that I had to bump it up.  The actors were superb in bringing their characters to life, giving them a depth many movies only wish for.  Even with most of the astronomy horribly botched, yes, I could watch this one again.


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