February 3rd, 2010 India Nicholas | Movie Reviews & Stories
 

Dear John

A gender-normative case for Nicholas Sparks.

     
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DEAR LORD: Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried.
IMAGE: Scott Garfield

Dear John is a tearjerker. It is filled with intense eye contact, long moments of meaningful silence, passionate kisses, a war, guns and violence, tragic screams and unanswered letters. There is excitement, affection, pain and heartache. And this is all in the 60-second television trailer.

Yes, gentlemen, that’s right! You thought your girlfriend was crazy, the way she would sort of sniffle and shift every time that commercial came on. But she is not alone. Many women, including myself, cry at movie previews. There’s no shame in it. Certain movies just have a je ne sais quoi that will yank our heartstrings without qualm. You know the kinds of movies I’m talking about—the ones with blustery beaches and characters with Southern accents, ones about young lovers forced apart, or about old lovers rekindling their passion, or any sort of plot that centers on two lovers. Movies like A Walk to Remember and The Notebook. Movies like Dear John. Aha! I see a pattern.

Those movies, and a handful of other “make-out movies,” are all based on best-selling novels by Nicholas Sparks. Like the others, Dear John follows the author’s brilliant and simple formula: boy meets girl, boy is tragically forced apart from girl, boy and/or girl suffer but eventually end up together and happy. Or dead, but grateful for the fleeting happy bits before the dying. It’s pure genius, really. Whether it involves romantic cougars or virginal teenagers, menacing parents or ambiguous diseases, Sparks’ formula creates date-night gold. Us girls eat that shit up. And this one isn’t any different. Yes, it’s directed by artsy guy Lasse Hallström (What’s Eating Gilbert Grape), but he’s been here before (Chocolat) and knows not to get in the way.

Dear John is about cutie pie Savannah Curtis (Amanda Seyfried) and badass bro John Tyree (Channing Tatum) falling in love on the coast of South Carolina. Savannah teaches John about tolerance and patience, and John teaches Savannah how to surf. In one scene, John is crouched over on the sand, trying to start a fire in the dark. A close-up on his face shows lips that are pouted with purpose. The dude is hawt and he knows it. When he lights the fire using only two sticks, Savannah compliments how “primal” his skills are. I think, “Yes, hottie Channing Tatum does make me feel primal.” But then John, who is in the Army, has to ship out to the Middle East. Savannah is sad but they promise to love each other forever and write each other love letters. Alas, tragedy strikes; tears are shed; sobs are muffled in the movie theater audience. But in the end, the lights go on, and the crowd—which was about 90 percent female at the screening I attended—applauds enthusiastically. Sure, we’re sobbing, but we’re lovin’ it. Our mascara might be smudged, but we’re damn horny. Taking your girlfriend to a Nicholas Sparks movie will be the best date you ever go on. Sure, it will probably make her cry, but at least she’ll probably want to bang you afterward.


SEE IT: Dear John is rated PG-13. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Eastport, Cinema 99, Bridgeport, Bridgeport, Cinetopia, City Center, Cornelius, Division, Hilltop, Lloyd Center, Pioner Place, Sandy, Sherwood, Tigard and WIlsonville.
 
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