AWFJ Women On Film – “Dear John” – Susan Granger reviews

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Best-selling writer Nicholas Sparks tugs at the heartstrings. If you’ve seen “The Notebook,” “Message in a Bottle,” “A Walk to Remember” or “Nights in Rodanthe,” you know that feel-good, romantic weepers are his specialty.

Back in 2001, serious, soft-spoken John Tyree (Channing Tatum) falls in love with bubbly Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) on the sun-dappled beach on the South Carolina coast. John is a Special Forces soldier on leave, visiting his taciturn father (Richard Jenkins) who is obsessed with his coin collection. Savannah is home on spring break, helping a family rebuild its hurricane-ravaged house. After their whirlwind two-week idyll, when John returns to Germany and Savannah goes back to college, they’re committed, promising to write for the remaining year of his service. But then 9/11 happens, he re-enlists and – for the next seven years – they’re separated by his increasingly perilous deployments. Melodrama reigns!

If you’ve ever been curious why Nicolas Sparks concentrates on themes involving death, loss and grief, his biography provides the answer: his mother was fatally injured in a horseback riding accident at the age of 47, his youngest sister died of cancer at age 33, and his father was killed in an automobile accident at the age of 54. And devoted Sparks’ aficionados should know that director Lasse Hallstrom (“The Cider House Rules,” “My Life as a Dog,” “Chocolat,” “Casanova”) and cliché-prone screenwriter Jamie Linden take artistic liberties with the lovers’ ultimate fate, which differs from the book’s ending. Reportedly, the conclusion was reworked after disappointing feedback from a test-screening.

But the primary problem is Channing Tatum’s (“Fighting,” “Stop-Loss”) lack of appeal; he’s hunky and photogenic but totally lacks charisma. Lovely Amanda Seyfried (“Mamma Mia,” HBO’s “Big Love”) does her best to feign carnal chemistry but to no avail. Curiously, supporting actors Richard Jenkins and Henry Thomas (as Savannah’s neighbor with an autistic son) delineate far more interesting characters.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Dear John” is a sudsy, syrupy 6, too often crossing the thin, star-crossed line between sentimental and schmaltzy.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.