Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Time Traveler's Wife.

The Time Traveler’s Wife (Robert Schwentke, 2009)

Category: In addition to being a sad movie based on a book (in this case, the 2003 bestseller by Audrey Niffenegger, a name that I would be afraid to say out loud, BTW), this is, of course, a sad film about time travel. Now I’m very drawn to the whole time travel thing. I’m all about movies and shows that purport to present a “realistic” perspective on what time travel would actually be like. (Like just about every other topic worth discussing, Chuck Klosterman has a great essay about this in his book Eating the Dinosaur.) And the fact is that, if it were real, time travel would probably be pretty sad, especially if you were to get stuck. You might get stuck in the future, and have to deal with your loved ones being older and probably gross-looking. Or you might get stuck in the past, and short of a bolt of lightning, there’d really be no way for you to get…. well you know.

The concept really is quite fascinating, though, which is why I’m excited for it to be used as a schmaltzy plot device in this film, which, by the way, is also a sad movie that I originally thought was based on a book by Nicholas Sparks, but it’s not, but the fact that I thought it was doesn’t bode well.

My familiarity with this issue: I remember reading that Ray Bradbury story in school about how one tiny change when hunting for dinosaurs (you know this story, right?) can completely alter history forever? I think it was called The Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher. Anyway, that’s stuck with me to this day. The fact that no one has traveled backward through time to prevent the Holocaust or 9/11 or the release of the new Maroon 5 song “Moves Like Jagger” indicates to me that time travel is probably impossible. Or perhaps that future generations have taken the Bradbury lesson to heart as well, and only use their time travel for future purposes.

I famously said when this movie came out that being a time traveler made it exceptionally easy to cheat on your wife. “Where were you last night?” “Oh, uh…. I was… doing that time travel thing. Travelin’ away. Fifty years ago, I think! Just got back to the present a few minutes ago. Sorry! I’d have called you, but, you know. Time travel.”

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “When Henry DeTamble meets Clare Abshire in a Chicago library they both understand that he is a time traveller, but she she knows much more than this about him as he has not yet been to the times and places where they have met before. He falls in love with her, as she has already with him, but his continuing unavoidable absences time travelling - and then returning with increasing knowledge of their future - makes things ever more difficult for Clare.”

Here is a video inspired by this plot summary:

What I thought about the movie/How I, John Krizel, related to the movie: I guess it wasn’t completely, totally objectionable. But a lot of it was pretty objectionable. I mean, it’s got Rachel McAdams, so it can’t be all bad. (She is increasingly my favorite lady who exists.) But most of the other stuff is either pretty bad or pretty nonsensical or pretty creepy or occasionally all three.

First of all, I don’t know about how the book treats the characters, but it’s weird that the title of the movie is The Time Traveler’s Wife and not The Time Traveler And The Girl He Stalks Who Eventually Becomes His Wife But Mainly The Time Traveler. We see pretty much everything through his eyes, and while we understand her weird bind (being in love with someone so unreliable, etc.), we really don’t spend all that much time with her. And that’s a problem: not only because of how hot she is, but also because of how creepy Eric Bana’s character is. Maybe this is partially the acting (I really don’t think he does a very good job in this movie at all), but I think the character, by his very nature, is kind of off-putting. I’ll get to that.

So he can time travel. He finds this out as a kid when he time travels out of the car that is about to be smacked by a huge truck, killing his mom. Confused and naked, he finds himself witnessing the accident, but then finds the older version of himself there comforting him. The idea is that his time traveling is pretty much random, but major events in his life have a kind of gravitational force, pulling him toward them when he’s time traveling and such. OK. I can deal with that. The rules of his time traveling are generally made clear, and with a few exceptions (i.e., The Terminator rule, wherein he always ends up naked after traveling, which just strikes me as a lazy way to get more of a look at Bana’s hot bod), the logistics didn’t bother me too much.

He grows up to be a librarian in Chicago, and one day Rachel McAdams shows up. She she totally recognizes him, and he seems a bit baffled by this, which bothered me. He’s a time traveler! Doesn’t he get that weird shit is going to happen to him, like, on the regular? I bet the number of people who recognize him even though he doesn’t remember meeting them is staggering. “Oh hey you were that guy who just appeared out of nowhere in my yard stark naked that time!” “Nope, doesn’t ring a bell.” So she she explains that an older version of him used to come visit her when she was six.

Now I know what you’re thinking. That sounds really creepy, right? Well see, what you have to realize about this scenario is YES IT IS CREEPY. IT’S SO CREEPY. ARE YOU KIDDING ME. The first time we see him do this he’s HIDING NAKED IN A BUSH, asking her to bring him clothes and telling her not to tell her mom. And then he says that she has to promise not to tell him how they met. WHAT KIND OF LESSON IS THIS TEACHING SIX-YEAR-OLD VIEWERS OF THIS FILM.

What’s possibly weirder is how DTF she is in the present day, especially in light of how shadily they met. She reallllllly wants on him, and being Rachel McAdams, she gets her way. He wants to know more about why he ends up stalking the six-year-old version of her. (How cool is that?) So he goes to her room and reads her diary! But it’s OK. Something about her needing to know when to bring him clothes or something. Real shady.

And so in no time they’re going to get married. Again, we don’t really learn a lot about her in this movie. Which is fine, she’s only the title character and everything. She’s got an awesome friend played by audience surrogate Ron Livingston, often hilariously baffled at the time traveling. Classic Livingston. And her family is rich and has a big house and her dad likes hunting (FORESHADOWING).

The wedding scene is fairly romantic. He disappears (cold feet? Oh wait no it’s because he travels through time uncontrollably) but then an older version of himself shows up to step in. Handy! And then the younger him comes back for the reception, but disappears as they’re jumping on their marriage bed (not a euphemism) before consummating the thing. Sad. You get a sense of how lame it will be to be married to a time traveler, which I guess is really the only point of the movie. We’ll expand on that later.

Remember how earlier I said that most of the time the time traveling stuff didn’t bother me that much? Well I’d forgotten about this: he goes to the future to find out the lottery numbers and then comes back and BUYS A TICKET AND THEY WIN FIVE MILLION DOLLARS. First of all, he’s said that he can’t change the past, which is why he couldn’t prevent his mother from dying. Second of all, are we supposed to root for him after this? That’s cheating, McAdams says, and even if she weren’t the most beautiful person on planet Earth I’d agree with her! What’s he gonna do next, steal the sports almanac and give it to young Biff? I suspect the main reason for the lottery thing is so that they can just sit and mope around for the rest of the movie and the audience won’t ask, hey shouldn’t these people have jobs?

She gets pregnant, but then miscarries. At this point in the movie, FOTB Micah Lubens jokingly suggested that the fetus might have time traveled away from the womb. We all had a good laugh about it. AND THEN IT TURNED OUT THAT THAT’S WHAT WAS HAPPENING. WHAT. Is it sad? Well kind of, but we were also laughing a lot, because that's really all you can do when you're watching a movie about time-traveling fetuses. So then a scientist played by Ned Ryerson (BING!) tries to help them, and eventually she gets pregnant by a younger version of Bana who time travels forward (even though I thought that was impossible, but apparently it’s just difficult?) and she has a kid, who can also time travel. Genetics! At this point, FOTB Evan Chiacchiaro made the best comment of the movie: “Wait, he can never hold her!” That might be the saddest part of the movie right there.

(SPOILERS, I guess? I already spoiled some things earlier, maybe. Whatever.) Bana time travels forward to meet her when she’s ten, and she tells him that he dies when she’s five, and then she turns five in real life and there is really no dramatic tension at all during this part of the movie. The plot gets needlessly complicated in order to try and manufacture tension, but it doesn’t work. We know that there is no doubt about him dying, it’s just a matter of when and how. (He gets shot by his father-in-law, because he time travels to a spot right in front of a deer while the guy is hunting. Inconvenient!)

And then the ending is horrible. We flash forward to when the kid is nine years old, and Bana shows up in the meadow where he used to stalk the six-year-old version of his wife. She calls for McAdams, who comes running. They chat. She says, why didn’t you tell me when you were coming (when he was alive) so I could’ve waited. He says, I didn’t want you to wait. He can only stay for a few seconds, so they embrace and then he disappears. And that's the end of the movie. 

Here is why this is horrible. He may tell her not to wait for him, but by not letting her know exactly where and when he will return (which he must know, at some point during his actual life), he is pretty much forcing her to wait for him, or at least to never let go of the past. And it’s strongly implied that this is what’s going to happen (apparently it’s what happens at the end of the book). She’ll never meet another guy, she’ll never move on, she’ll always just be there, waiting for this time-traveling pervert to show up and say hi for like twenty seconds. Ughhhhhhh.

How I felt after the movie ended: While the ending did anger me, it wasn’t out of touch with the rest of the movie. And obviously that’s the biggest problem of all. McAdams even says as much at one point in the movie, and the audience/Bana has no real response. She says, “I never had a choice.” I.e., he took hold of this girl from when she was six years old, enraptured her, put all these grand ideas in her head, and then set her down this inexorable path toward unhappiness. And she really does spend a lot of her time being upset, and rightly so: he disappears out of nowhere, he makes her miscarry like eight times, he can't hold the baby, etc. That’s not a healthy marriage!

There are times during the movie when she gets mad at him, and while my initial impulse was to say that that was as irrational as getting mad at someone for breathing or coughing or anything else that’s involuntary, I realize now that she is definitely entitled to be mad at him for the whole thing. She’s like a child actor whose parents make them audition for things since they were infants. That’s why all those kids end up being so screwed up. They essentially have no free will. And McAdams is screwed up. She has to be, in order to make the choice that the movie implies that she will make at the end.

Now I know people who would argue that this is a romantic ending, that waiting your whole life for someone who may never reappear is the essence of what love means. But I disagree. Deciding to fall in love with someone is the biggest thing, the most exciting, selfless, extraordinary thing, that a person can do on this planet. It’s the reason we’re here. But she didn’t decide. She was coerced, predestined to live this life of pain and torment and uncertainty, by this man (who, side note, the movie does not even come close to convincing us is worthy of her ardor). She was emotionally imprisoned, and, even worse, it is an imprisonment that does not even end with his death. And I know it’s supposed to be romantic, that she is still in his thrall and will wait for him forever, even if she only gets to see him for a moment, because that’s how much she loves him. But think about what her life will be like for more than two seconds and then try to tell me it’s romantic. It would be terrible. It would be unfair and unequal and unkind, and love is not supposed to be any of those three things. You know I’m very much in favor of romance, but my idea of romance also includes leaving people alone after I’m dead.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The 63rd Annual Emmy Awards: In Memoriam Segment.

The 63rd Annual Emmy Awards: In Memoriam Segment.

[Note #1: We're introducing a new feature on the blog: Nibble My Sad. Bite-sized pieces of sad for your nibblin' pleasure. I apologize for how gross all of this sounds. Hat tip to FOTB Zach Gibson for basically this entire idea.]

[Note #2: I do not intend to be disrespectful to the people who died in the last year who were included in this tribute. Let's see how well I do at that.] 

0:00: OK did they seriously spell "In Memoriam" wrong? I didn't even notice this yesterday. We're off to a FLYING start.

0:36: The first notes of "Hallelujah" are the same as "O Holy Night," and for a split-second I was very confused. That would've been a marked improvement, though. I'm picturing Groban, and some fake snow, and everyone thinking about Christmas even though it's September. I love Christmas.

0:42: My reaction here, and I believe I was with just about everyone in America on this, was twofold: (1) oh God not another version of "Hallelujah," and (2) who the hell are THESE guys?! What!? You can't just spring some nobodies on us for the In Memorium Memoriam thing! You need someone like Celine Dion, or Norah Jones, or Groban, someone who we're comfortable with and won't distract us with their randomness when we're trying to focus on the dead people. Of course, we'd all later find out that these are the Canadian Tenors. We'll discuss that shortly.

Re: the "Hallelujah" thing: it's a great song, of course. But MY GOD has it been done to death. Most songs have one definitive version. I'd argue that this has THREE: the Leonard Cohen original, Jeff Buckley's, and Rufus Wainwright's. And yet everyone just keeps on trying. I don't watch American Idol or The Voice or America's Got Talent or any of that other nonsense, but I'm still pretty sure there's at least one version of this song on every goddamn season of those shows. On its Wikipedia page, I just found this quote from L. Cohen himself:

"I was just reading a review of a movie called Watchmen that uses it [Editor's Note: hilariously] and the reviewer said: 'Can we please have a moratorium on "Hallelujah" in movies and television shows?' And I kind of feel the same way... I think it's a good song, but I think too many people sing it."

This is coming from a man who MAKES MONEY for DOING NOTHING when other people sing his song! And he's sick of it! Goodness. 

0:49: Leather Jacket Guy is singing now. His lyric is: "But you don't really care for music, do ya?" Which is just too easy. Also, you are wearing a leather jacket when singing a song to honor dead people! FOTB/Democracy Diva Samantha Dercher would not approve. If you're going to be underdressed, why not just go full Canadian Tuxedo?

0:58: Here's Fedora McGee aka the Canadian Tom Haverford, croonin' away. If Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Donnie Wahlberg had a Canadian gay-baby who really liked Justin Timberlake, he'd be this guy. Also worth noting: he can't sing.

1:05: "Oh God oh God oh God oh God not a smoke machine."

1:14: They're all together on stage now, and have to harmonize for the first time after each having their solo parts, so they do that thing where they're trying to blend well but they're all too quiet at first because they've overcompensated. It's great. Also, their left hands are all doing the same thing. It's like some Canadian puppetmaster is just offstage, hiding behind the smoke machine.

1:23: The montage begins. Commence that awkward moment in In Memoriam montages where they're still singing, but there's also a snippet of dialogue from one of the deceased and/or applause from the audience (which I always thought was mean and arbitrary, by the way; applauding for some of the dead people but not others based on how famous they are seems to me an accurate microcosm of what Hollywood is like.)

1:57: Verse two. Montage still on. It starts building and building until...

2:29: Oh my God the backing track just smacked us in the face. I saw that this was referred to on some blogs/Twitters as an "a cappella" performance, which really suggests that a lot of people don't know what a cappella means. Because good Lord that music! Do we have to cry now? We've had like two hours of jokes (or attempted jokes) before this!

2:40: And THEN they go and undercut our Canadian friends by showing us Leslie Nielsen being hilarious during their dramatic second chorus. What are we supposed to do here! Oh the mood swings!

2:55: Really smooth timing there. The drums come in right as Mr. Cunningham finishes a sweet line. Aww Mr. C.

3:28: They are really swinging for the fences with the harmonies on Chorus #3. Don't strain anything, fellas.

3:46: Soaring guitar solo! Soaring guitar solo?

3:54: Oh OK it was only like two measures long. Tasteful.

4:02: We're back on our lads. LJG leads the way. They're doing the same left-hand coordinated emoting that they did at the beginning, which leads me to believe that they've been doing it for the last four minutes. 

4:25: LJG pulling out all the stops for this final chorus. My goodness. Don't hurt yourselves, fellas.

4:46: The singing ends. The audience applauds, possibly for Bubba Smith. What's a word that means more overwrought than overwrought? Overoverwrought?

Here's a true story. Several months ago I attended an Aimee Mann concert at the Birchmere Music Hall in Alexandria, Virginia. I went by myself. Upon arriving I quickly and horrifyingly discovered that the Birchmere is pretty much a dinner theater, with tables set up and everything. Furthermore, I realized that arriving around the time of the concert's advertised start time and blending in with the crowd was not, as with most venues, the thing to do, but that for a venue like this one the thing to do is to show up like an hour early and eat, with all your friends, at these big dinner tables, and then chat for a while until Aimee Mann shows up a little after the advertised start time and plays to pleasant, elderly applause. And further that the thing definitely not to do is to go by yourself and eventually have to share a table with two people who were absolutely on a date and absolutely hated that I awkwardly snuck onto their table after the first song. And so in the fifteen minutes between my arrival and the beginning of the concert, I wandered around aimlessly outside the hall, terrified, planning my next move. Adorning the walls of this part of the venue were a bunch of signed programs of acts that had performed there in the past. Let's just say these were the kind of acts that don't usually play at the hip venues in town. And right outside the men's bathroom was a program for the Canadian Tenors. I literally laughed out loud at the absurdity of all of it: the ridiculous venue, my ridiculous situation, and the fact that there exists a group called the Canadian Tenors. I had forgotten all about them until last night. I was so happy to have them back in my life.

5:05: "IN MEMORIAM." I guess they had two different interns working on the intro and outro.

How I felt after the montage ended: Utterly bewildered.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear John.

Dear John (Lasse Hallstrom, 2010)

Category: Sparks Sparks Sparks. (Nicholas, of course.) Five down, one to go! I’m on the edge of glory. If by “glory” I mean “an incredibly pointless accomplishment.” It feels wonderful hanging on this moment with you.

Specifically, this is a sad movie about letters. Oh how Sparks loves letters! I bet he’s one of those guys who doesn’t have an email address. He just lives in his big house that he built by the water and sits there every day, reading letters and trying to figure out how to rejigger his Sparks formula to reach another demographic (boring middle-aged people, teen pop stars, Christians, etc). In this book/film, he goes after the military. Don’t those soldiers go through enough?

Dear John is also a sad movie with the same title as a song from the 2010 album Speak Now by Taylor Swift. This is actually a stunningly popular category, when you take into account The Story of Us, a 1999 Bruce Willis-Michelle Pfeiffer schmaltzfest, and 2006’s (The) Last Kiss, starring Droopy Dog Zach Braff. I never figured T-Swift for that much of a sadmonger, but I guess the evidence speaks for itself. Here are the synopses of my proposed sad films based on the rest of the songs on the album:
  • Mine. A West Virginia coal film. Like a sadder version of October Sky.
  • Sparks Fly. A telephone line repairman suffers a horrific accident.
  • Back to December. Kevin Kline and Julianne Moore play grieving parents on a road trip to December Diamonds in Waynesville, N.C. to identify their dead son’s body. (Hat tip to Google Maps for that one.)
  • Speak Now. A film about the effects of torture.
  • Mean. I’m picturing Mean Girls, but Regina George actually gets killed by the bus. (Much like Anne Hathaway in One Day. #topical)
  • Never Grow Up. A young boy is diagnosed with a rare disease called Peter Pan syndrome.
  • Enchanted. Amy Adams plays a princess in an animated fantasy world who is transported to real-life New York City. Wait a second.
  • Better than Revenge. A man successfully kills his wife’s lover, but suffers from post-killing-your-wife’s-lover stress disorder.
  • Innocent. A man wrongfully accused of murder fights for his freedom. Unsuccessfully, of course. And then five seconds after he’s executed, a guy bursts into the room with the DNA evidence that exonerates him. Devastating.
  • Haunted. Sad haunted house film? Let’s go with it.
  • Long Live. Opposite of Never Grow Up.  

My familiarity with this issue: Divorced from their schmaltzy Sparks context, there is something very cool/romantic about letter writing, particularly in this age of Twitter. I encourage all of you to make a friend who works in the wilderness with no phone or Internet access. You’ll get the pleasure of breaking important world events to them, such as the death of Osama bin Laden, or that time I shaved my beard.

The problem here, of course, is the context. Recall the bullshit that was Message in a Bottle, in which Costner’s banality and petulance were rendered unimportant by his “beautiful” letter writing. I can’t wait to hear Channing Tatum read his letters to Amanda Seyfried in dramatic voiceovers. It’s gonna be horrific.

The title of the movie comes not from T-Swift, thankfully, but rather from the phrase describing letters that women would write to soldiers in order to break up with them. This seems like a really mean trend; in fact, it really surprises that this is so much of a thing as to warrant a commonly known expression to describe it. I’ll bet you five dollars that Channing Tatum’s character’s name is John in this film. (UPDATE: I have consulted IMDb. I am correct. Pay up.)

Plot summary yoinked from IMDb: “While John is on leave in his hometown, he finds Savannah, a college student visiting the town. Although love was unexpected, it doesn't mean they didn't find it. With the knowledge of John having to leave for the army, their love still lives, until his re-signs on due to the 9/11 attack. Troubles invade and their love put on hold. One cannot bear it anymore; can the other?” Oh God this plot summary is almost as terrible as the movie.

What I thought of the movie: Yeah this one is really bad. Realllllllly bad. I don’t know where it sits yet in the Sparks Taxonomy of Shit (STS), but it’s definitely in the conversation with The Last Song.

Amazingly, I totally predicted how the movie was going to start: with Channing Tatum (aka what would happen if Ryan Reynolds and Josh Hartnett had a gay-baby and pumped it full of steroids) reading one of his letters in a dramatic voiceover. It’s a torturous, meaningless metaphor, ostensibly about what he thought about after he got shot. I think I might rather be shot than try to explain it here. It involves coins, though, which is a motif. There’s lots of foreshadowing going on in the first couple minutes, both about the film’s internal themes and its external terribleness.

But so then we begin the story in spring 2001. Tatum’s a soldier on leave, hanging with his dad (Richard Jenkins, slummin’ it) in their big house near the water (SPARKS THEME) in South Carolina. He meets Seyfried, chillin’ on spring break with her friends, including Jason Street!!! Oh man! I was very excited to see that Scott Porter was in this movie. And then within FIVE SECONDS I was unbelievably pissed off, when it became clear that Jason Street Texas Forever! Clear Eyes Full Hearts Can’t Lose! SIX! QB1 of the Dillon Freakin’ Panthers! had been cast in this film as the Douchey Friend of Amanda Seyfried. WHAT. How dare you misuse Jason Street like that! And after he miraculously recovered from his paralysis!! This was definitely one of the three or four worst things about the movie.

So Tatum and Seyfried make eyes at each other, infuriating Street, who OPENLY MAKES FUN of the fact that Tatum is in the military. I guess it’s a pre-9/11 world at this point, but still! Outrageous. In any case, he doesn’t stop Tatum from mumble-flirting with Seyfried for a few hours at a barbeque. They talk about the moon, and how it looks small even though it’s really big or some absolute bullshit nonsense that I almost vomited at. At no point in the movie are the two of them convincing as a couple, by the way. I entirely blame Channing Tatum’s shitty acting for this. Seyfried is fetching enough, but the man is just a big stupid mumbly brick wall.

So they go out again and she meets his dad, who, it becomes clear, is autistic. (Classic Sparks, by the way. It’s not enough for this to be a sad movie about the military. He’s gotta sprinkle a little autism in there as well. There is so much piling on in this movie.) Jenkins collects coins (it’s a motif), and Tatum is clearly weirded out by him, which annoyed me. But what annoyed me more was the conversation they had later that night, a conversation which, as you’ll recall, is taking place a day and a half after they’ve met. Seyfried says, “You shouldn’t be too hard on your Dad. He loves you. I can tell, even if you can’t.” Thanks a lot, toots.

It becomes clear that Seyfried is a Good Person who Builds Houses On Her Spring Break and Wants To Start A Summer Camp For Autistic Kids That Somehow Involves Horses. (The film tries to establish that Tatum used to be a Bad Boy, and that the military straightened him out, but really doesn’t do anything with that information.) There’s more vague mumbly flirting at the house that she’s building, and then it starts raining, and they kiss in the rain (JOINT SPARKS/T-SWIFT THEME), and away they go.

Their romance lasts for the remainder of Seyfried’s two-week (!) spring break. (She must go to a state school.) There's a montage and everything. Cartoon bluebirds are chirping, etc. Then on the last day, there’s some big party on the beach, with dudes in sweatshirts and shorts playing guitars, and Seyfried is sitting by herself away from the action (as any sensible person would, because there is nothing in the world that is worse than dudes in sweatshirts and shorts playing guitars on the beach). She’s moody about the fact that soon he’s gonna be Army-ing again for another twelve months, and he promises her… something. I didn’t catch it (#mumbly).

Then, kind of hilariously, she tells him that, because of all the time she’s spent with his dad, she’s realized that she wants to teach special ed! And Tatum is like, wait what? Because apparently Jenkins's autism is of the undiagnosed variety. It’s the equivalent of asking a fat lady when the baby’s due. He flips out and leaves, running into Jason Street on the way, who douches it up and Tatum knocks him out (not paralyzing him, though, thankfully) and then elbows Henry Thomas, who plays Seyfried's other friend, a Sad Bearded Single Dad Of An Autistic Son (#pilingon), in the face. He’s gone Rambo! Or at least Jersey Shore Ronnie! Seyfried should run for her life! But of course she forgives him the next day, and they agree to send each other letters.

They do that for a while, basically just biding time until 9/11. That happens. Tatum’s fellow soldiers all want to reenlist, but they're given a brief furlough to think about it first. He books it back to the States to see his pen pal girl for literally eighteen hours, during which there is, coincidentally, a fancy party at Seyfried’s rich family’s plantation big house.

Now pay attention to the timeline here. After the soldiers find out about 9/11, they all meet to tell their captain that they’re planning to reenlist. It makes sense that this would happen on 9/12; in fact the editing strongly implies that this is the case. Their furlough occurs that weekend. 9/11 was a Tuesday, so it was the weekend of 9/14-9/16. So Tatum flies from whatever foreign country he was in to America on like 9/14 (which is absurd); at the airport, he sees people getting stronger security checks (which is edited in a really AMIRITE POST-9/11 AMERICA kinda way).

And then, on 9/14, 9/15 the latest, he goes to this ENORMOUS PARTY, at which everyone is all back-slapping and wearing blazers and smoking cigars and chilling out and acting as if the worst thing ever didn’t happen FOUR DAYS EARLIER. Now I understand that these people are rich, and that rich people generally don’t really care about problems that aren’t their own, but it’s like FOUR DAYS AFTER 9/11!! Everyone was freaking out then! There weren’t any big fancy parties! No one in America had a party that weekend!

AND THEN at the 9/11 party Seyfried’s father and his two asshole rich friends start condescending to Tatum and telling him about how the military’s gonna make sure they reenlist (“they’ll ask you to do it, and then they won’t ask, they’ll tell,” which I must be paraphrasing because if those were the actual lines I wouldn’t have been able to pass up a good DADT joke there). An outrageous thing to say to a military man in any instance, let alone FOUR DAYS AFTER 9/11! This part of the movie is so unrealistic as to be unfathomable.

So Seyfried catches wind that Tatum plans to reenlist, and she pouts about it for a while and oh Jesus I almost forgot, on the way to this party, Jenkins has an autistic breakdown in the back of their car and has to get out of the car, four days after 9/11 when his son has returned to America for 18 hours to see the girl and HOW DESPERATELY DO YOU WANT TO MAKE US CRY, NICHOLAS SPARKS? Jesus Christ take it easy for FIVE SECONDS and let us breathe and enjoy the 9/11 party! Where was I. She pouts, it’s selfish, the script calls for him to cry about it which is just asking for trouble, and finally they have sex somewhere. Whatever.

He goes back to the military, they write more letters, and then she stops writing for a few months, and then writes the titular letter. She’s with someone else. And we’re torn between saying, “it’s about time, he’s a meathead” and “eh I guess she's kind of a b.” I guess we’re supposed to believe that her new beau is Jason Street, because he was at the 9/11 party too, but I totally called that it was Sad Beardy Henry Thomas. There is no part of me that cares about any of these characters or the plot machinations at all, though. So really it's a Pyrrhic victory.

It keeps piling on. We see the shooting from the beginning of the movie. (Side note: the film's depiction of the military, what it's like to be a soldier, what soldiers actually do, etc., is really painfully wrong and aimed at teenage girls. It's almost entirely the opposite of The Hurt Locker.)  So he recovers, but because there's nothing for him in America now that the girl is with someone else (I guess), he keeps extending his tours. For YEARS. Until 2007! This is just so totally glossed over as to be offensive.
Finally, he’s sent home because Jenkins had a stroke. We find out that the terrible letter that Tatum read at the beginning of the movie was actually to him. And as he sits at Jenkins’s bedside reading him the letter, Jenkins, who is barely conscious and AUTISTIC, reaches out to embrace him from the bed. It’s shameful. It’s like Gena Rowlands’s moment of clarity at the end of The Notebook, completely medically impossible bullshit that Sparks throws in to manipulate us. Piling. On.

Jenkins dies. Tatum goes to see Seyfried, who is married to (shocker) Henry Thomas. But instead of having it that she fell in love with him, we find that she married him out of pity because he has terminal cancer, and she wants to make sure someone will take car of his autistic son. And we learn, via Thomas in the hospital, that she still loves Tatum. A man she has spent time with for a total of two weeks and eighteen hours, six years ago, who spent part of that time punching a man in the face and the rest of it mumbling.

I get it, of course. But it’s upsetting to me all the same, because in The Notebook, we had James Marsden as a viable alternative to Ryan Gosling. She might have actually loved James Marsden too, which is how real life actually works. In the fantasy world of Dear John, once she’s met her soul mate, she’s not allowed to have authentic feelings for anyone else. It’s cloying sentimentality in the guise of true romance, and it’s bullshit. And I barely paid attention to the obvious ending, where Tatum uses Jenkins’s coin collection (motif) to pay for Thomas’s treatment, which gives him two extra months to live, and then after he kicks it, they see each other in a coffee shop and it’s clear that they’re going to make it work or whatever. Shoot me.

How I, John Krizel, related to the movie/How I felt after the movie ended: I mean you get the idea.

How FOTB Zach Gibson related to the movie: I really enjoyed watching this movie with FOTB Zach Gibson. I theorized that, since he’s not used to the Sparks bullshit, that he would have an even stronger reaction to the hokum than I would. I was right. It was hilarious. The hand-wringing and guttural screams and incredulous rhetorical questions were too numerous to catalog. “I’m gonna kill this movie,” he growled at one particularly objectionable moment. Silly Zach. You can't kill Sparks. Sparks is the Terminator of sad. He's relentless. But after I watch Nights in Rodanthe, I will have completed the gauntlet. Stay tuned.