Message in a Bottle
(By Gerry Wang)

(Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman)
Gerry Wang

_____Since this past weekend was Valentine's Day Weekend, naturally the more amorous side of Gerry came out in full force. Much like the transformation of a werewolf during a full moon. So I decide to bite the bullet, and watch a chick movie, since all guys are legally obligated, by penalty of being dumped, to do something romantic on Valentine's Day Weekend. I will now launch into a tirade over why I hate Valentine's Day.

_____What, may I ask all women, is the big deal over Valentine's Day? What is its purpose? Is it to make all single people feel worse? To inflate the egos of certain individuals who are overly elated at having a girlfriend? Why do we celebrate this? If you examine the background of Valentine's Day, you'd see that it is actually a Catholic holiday named for St. Valentine. I ain't Catholic, so why do I have to go through the hell of buying plants and cocoa-bean confections? It doesn't make sense. You see, Valentine's Day has evolved into what Halloween has, and also Christmas, to a certain extent. It has become the Commercial Holiday, where the sole purpose of celebration has become material and profit-hungry, rather than ideologically based.

_____Ok, end of manifesto.

_____So I go watch MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE on the eve of Valentine's Day. I reluctantly part with my 10 bucks for 2 student tickets. I only saw the trailer for this movie, which was pretty interesting, and I didn't do my usual routine of reading every review I can get my hands on and watching Siskel and Ebert before I watch the movie. You see? What did I say, Romantic-Gerry does things spontaneously and on a whim! Which girls usually like.

_____I came into the movie theater a blank slate, without any outside influence at all. I expected MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE to be so sweet I'd get cavities from watching. So syrupy that I'd best prepare my hotcakes. But to my surprise, I found myself enjoying MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, which wasn't really that cheesy after all.

_____MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE, adapted from Nicholas Sparks' best-selling novel, is the story of two heartbroken strangers, one a divorced researcher, Theresa Osborne, (Robin Wright Penn, from FORREST GUMP) for the Chicago Tribune who is sharing joint custody of her beloved son with her ex-husband, who has since remarried. The other is a mariner, Garret Blake, (Kevin Costner, doing the same terse WATERWORLD character except this time it's set in the present) from North Carolina, a solitude seaman (I love this pun) who lost his beloved wife Catherine two years ago to sickness.

_____One day, as Theresa is jogging she stumbles upon a bottle with a letter in it. She reads the message in the bottle, a letter from a man to his dead wife Catherine, and is instantly blown away by the sadness and grief conveyed in the letter. She finds herself curious as to who the author is, since it is only signed "G." Theresa brings it back to her newspaper, and it instantly becomes a media sensation, as everyone is enraptured by the tremendous love this mysterious man has for his dead wife. Theresa finds herself falling in love.

_____Eventually, the Chicago Tribune is flooded with letters about the "Message In A Bottle," and someone writes that he/she has also found a letter, and enclosed a photo copy. Theresa suddenly realizes that she can track down this "G.", and proceeds to do so, looking at the model of typewriter, stationary, bottle used, mapping, etc..... and other neat detective tactics. Eventually she finds who wrote the messages, a certain Garret Blake.

_____Theresa then decides to follow her heart, and seek out this mysterious Garret Blake. She finds him, along with his stodgy ol' pops (Paul Newman, who steals the show). They both fall in love, but both are torn.......... Theresa because of the fact that she exploited Garret's own grief to find him, Garret because he still loves his dead wife, and is afraid of, even guilty towards moving on. The whole latter half of the movie is about Garret's slow process of healing his wounds with the help of his new love, Theresa.

_____Both Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn give great romantic, yet restrained performances, with Costner returning to his old leading man self. I've never seen someone convey as much emotion just working on a boat as Costner does with his Garret Blake. Robin Wright Penn is also fantastic as a good mother who's lonely, and following her heart and taking risks for the first time in her life. But ultimately, I wasn't really charmed with Costner and Penn's chemistry. It just didn't click the same way as the Hanks/Ryan, Bacall/Bogart, Leigh/Gable duos in movie history. But I suppose that is asking for too much, since I did like this movie regardless.

_____I want to call it right now. Paul Newman will garner an Oscar nomination for his performance as Garret Blake's codgety pops, a recovering alcoholic who loves his son deeply. Garret's all he has left, and all he wants is to see his son happy again. The way father and son banter and take jabs at one another made this movie very enjoyable.

_____Another aspect of MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE I really loved was its beautiful depiction of the Eastern United States Seaboard. The beach looks idyllic, and the quaint little seaside town looks ripped straight from a Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post painting. Even the Chicago Tribune offices looked glamorous. As my devout readers already know, I'm a sucker for lush cinematography in a movie. =)

_____But what ultimately lowers MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE from ***1/2 to merely *** is its ending, which seems arbitrary and totally unnecessary. This movie is tearjerky enough. We don't need Kevin Costner doing stupid things and pissing the audience off. That's all I'll say about the ending.

_____So go watch MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE with a date. It is sentimental and weepy, perfect for female companions. Bring napkins and a shoulder pad, since there are plenty of sad moments for you two to cuddle.


BABE-O-METER: 2- [Semi do-able]
Robin Wright Penn looks like Rebecca Romijn from some angles, but damn, she got 2 moles on the right side of her face!

The scale is as follows:

* 4-- Greek Goddesses (Highest)- Some nice, delicious honeys; i.e. Jenny McCarthy
* 3-- Lovely- Pretty girls, but not knockouts; i.e. Jennifer Lopez
* 2-- Semi Do-able- Middle of the road type of girls; i.e. Jennie Garth
* 1-- I am limp (Lowest)- Butt ugly banshees; i.e. my sis Jennifer Wang =)