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Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Retro Review: Message In A Bottle (1999)

Message In A Bottle
Cast: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman, Robbie Coltrane, Jesse James
Genre: Romantic Drama
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $118 million 

Plot: A woman discovers a tragic love letter in a bottle on a beach, and is determined to track down its author

'Messazzzzz...... Oh Sorry What Was That Again?'

Contrary to some, the adaptation of The Notebook was not the first Nicholas Sparks novel to be given the Hollywood movie treatment: that honour actually goes to 1999's Message In A Bottle. Produced by and starring Kevin Costner with Robin Wright, it was another one of those earlier romantic novels turned movies that are as unmistakably 1990s as it is resolutely 1990s. I know I am not the type for these films, and still, I expected something that would make it special and memorable for years to come. Unfortunately, however, Message In A Bottle remains as tepid and frankly tedious as I'd doubted it would be and the longer it went on, the more it became insufferable.  

Chicago Tribune researcher Teresa Osbourne drops off her son to her ex-husband who is also his father, afterwards she heads off to Cape Cod in search of a letter, written by a man to a woman that is inside a bottle that is washed up ashore. When Teresa gets her hands on this bottle, she manages to track down and get hold of this guy named Garrett. There are few home truths that are unearthed, but they are nothing that grand to truly brag about or to be enthusiastic for.  It starts off well, but as it wears on, the duller it eventually became. 

I really hate to say this, but Kevin Costner is the biggest issue as to why this movie just didn't work out: he is just not cut out for these types of films and he lacks the emotional resonance an actor like himself possesses to pass off as the male lead. Garrett is a bore, just nothing about him stands out, but that is mainly to do with Costner, who as likeable as he appears onscreen, has little charisma other than to be brooding. Unlike Robin Wright, he looks out of place for me and didn't seem to connect with the character he was portraying. Robin herself looks terrific as Theresa, but despite her efforts, she has done far better elsewhere and had she been given stronger material, this would have further elevated her performance. It's nice to see her in a film like this, but the script didn't do her any favours, nor stretch her beyond her talents. Robin Wright deserved better.

Being a romantic drama, Mandoki and the book itself are unwilling to bring out more of the friction and tension it needed and Theresa and Garret are so bland and lacking in characterisation that regardless of Robin Wright and Kevin Costner, they just couldn't do enough to make it believable. Their pairing also falls short as their romance lacks emotional resonance and I just didn't sense that on-screen chemistry between them; because of that, I never bought into them as their characters falling for each other. 

The filmmakers and writer/s, along with Costner himself, make no effort at establishing what literally draws Garret and Theresa together, whatsoever. 

It's a shame this: I really wanted to enjoy it and find some charm and entertainment out of Message In A Bottle, but the story is just so stagnant, lacking in substance and the pacing is just slow and is overkill. I mean, it's understandable for a romantic drama, just to build up the relationships of the main characters; but even the pitifully penned characters, of whom aren't very interesting and the script, doesn't lend themselves that well to the movie. With romantic comedies and dramas, they need an interesting set of characters consisting of the love interest and the person who is in love with the love interest and to help bring that chemistry to life. Thing is 90% of these movies are so bad and terrible, they are more fluff and cringe than they are great movies I could immerse myself into fully. Taking away the fact this is based on a book, as a romantic drama, Message In A Bottle is so poorly conceived.
What little tension it provides, there is little urgency and alas, the film goes about it in a typical romantic drama sense, with little to set itself apart. The approach in terms of production and filmmaking reeks of Lifetime channel and TV movie fare that is trite as it is and despite one or two nice scenes, this love story just never felt compelling.  

I am completely unfamiliar with the book Message In A Bottle is based on as I have not read it and yet I've read there were a few changes made for this film. 

Just because one is the producer of the movie, doesn't always mean they should call all of the shots: Costner could've and probably should've cast another actor to play Garrett instead of himself, and that he might have given his character further depth that Costner couldn't produce.

The twist towards the end was unexpected but given as I wasn't impressed by his performance and his character, I honestly didn't give a toss. 

Final Verdict:

Passionless and emotionally hollow on the inside, yet on the outside, it looks attractive, somewhat accompanied by golden sunsets with not one major standout performance to really speak of, Message In A Bottle is another fruitless romantic drama that whilst they are supposed to be more grounded in reality, it comes across as superficial. & it is one of the worst types of romantic dramas to ever surface. 

Along with the mismatched Kevin Costner and less so Robin Wright and the remaining wasted supporting cast, Message In A Bottle, along with The Postman and Waterworld, this is another bomb from Costner's latter part of his career, which eventually sank without a trace. 

Dreary, boring and unengaging, this film, and most of the cast, but for Robin Wright and Paul Newman, all deserve to be cast out to sea. 


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