Friday, May 28, 2010

Dear John (2010)

So yes. I wanted to see Dear John. Sue me. I think Channing Tatum is fun to look at. It was typical run of the mill Nicholas Sparks fare. Every review that came out at the time said basically that. And Channing Tatum was attractive in both shirtless and uniformed versions. But you know which character really got me? His father.

Richard Jenkins is a phenomenal actor. He was nominated for an Oscar in 2007 for his role in The Visitor – which, unlike Dear John, is universally considered a great film. But in Dear John he plays a sixty-something year old father with Asperger’s syndrome.

Unfortunately, the fact that he has Asperger’s is pointed out during the film in literal terms. It would have been a very intriguing character trait to let it lie and not stick a sign post in the dirt saying “Socially challenged character on your left!” Ignoring that unfortunate element of the script, the character himself breaks your heart again and again.

When he cooks two lasagnas instead of one because he thinks John will bring his girl Savannah over for dinner, it’s heartwarming. When teenage John refuses to continue the tradition of attending coin shows with his father, the look on Richard Jenkins’ face makes you feel like John is an utter monster. When his father fails in his attempt to accompany John and Savannah to dinner at Savannah’s house, panicking in the car on the way there, it brings tears to your eyes. (My head: “He dressed up and everything! He was sitting there, just waiting to go. And John’s only in town for one night. He tried so hard!) And then, when his father shows up at the airport to say goodbye to John, you want SO badly for them to hug. But they shake hands and off John goes.

And of course - when the inevitable happens and Nicholas Sparks wields his executioner’s ax - John’s realization of how alone his father was and how much his father loved him made me sob the way any decent Nicholas Sparks story should.
Then John sells his father’s coin collection to pay for cheating Savannah’s husband’s medical care (I don’t care that she only married him because he was dying of cancer and his son was sick.) Those were his father’s coins! They were all his father had in life. And he sells them to help HER. Ugh! (I don’t think you’re supposed to feel quite as indignant about that as I did…)

So that is the tale of John’s Father. It should have been a small little independent movie about him. For the record, I don’t like Nicholas Sparks stories. Not only are they redundant as all hell, but they're manipulative in a fake, obvious way. He breaks hearts to break hearts. I do not give him the credit for the touching father character. I place all the credit sqarely on the shoulders of Richard Jenkins. And that’s that.

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