Message in a Bottle (1999) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for a scene of sexuality
Running Time: 131 min.
Cast: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman, John Savage, Illeana Douglas
Director: Luis Mandoki
Screenplay: Gerald Di Pego (based n the novel by Nicholas Sparks)
Review published August 12, 1999
Based on the bestseller by Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle is nothing but 2+ hours of missed opportunities. First and foremost, director Luis Mandoki (White Palace, Angel Eyes) does not seem to realize that to have an effective tearjerker, you need to make the audience care about the characters. To care about the characters, they need to be believable. To make characters believable, they need to behave in ways that you or I would if put in the same situation. If you can buy the fact that the two leads fall in deep and unequivocal love by staring at each other for a couple of hours while sailing, you may find some enjoyment in this retread of Sleepless in Seattle.
THE STORY: A young reporter finds a message in a bottle washed ashore containing a message of one man's love for his wife. It and two others found, apparently by the same author, are printed in the newspaper and become the talk of Chicago. She is sent to find the man that wrote such loving words, and her travels lead her to a widowed shipbuilder who has sent these notes to his deceased wife. His words have already stirred emotions in the young reporter, but will he let go of the past to love again?
To say the film proceeds at a leisurely pace would be a vast understatement. Two hours of staring at your watch and watching each second tick, tick, tick would be just as interesting as watching the events on screen. In fact, you may end up doing just that for most of it. That's not to say Message in a Bottle is a horrible film, because that wouldn't be giving it its due. There are good performances and the interesting idea for a film that make the film tolerable, but when you have great actors like Costner (The Postman, Waterworld) and Newman (Twilight, The Hudsucker Proxy), and over two hours to make us care about them, it's ridiculous that truly emotional scenes lay limp and ineffectual. Paint-by-numbers chick flick contrivances abound, but excitement is nowhere to be found.
©1999 Vince Leo