It's nice to see Amanda Seyfried and Channing Tatum again. Seyfried was endearing as Sophia in Mamma Mia! with Meryl Streep and Tatum was winning in his first real break movie She's the Man with Amanda Bynes. In Dear John, though, some things just don't add up.
The story, a good one, looks at real choices that had to be made by real people in a terrible episode of recent American history, the era of the World Trade Center 9/11 attacks. John and Savannah (Tatum and Seyfried) portray what a lot of men and women went through during those days--and still go through today. The fact that John and his dad (Richard Jenkins) have some difficulties and that John's dad has his own private difficulties adds a humanity that lifts it out of the realm of a political comment couched as a romance.
Channing has matured as a man. His hair is longer. He must be past his 'bad boy" phase. And he has matured as an actor as well, It is good to see him in a role that calls for significant emotional responses to several different impetuses, because he has the depth as an actor to carry it off and, more importantly, carry us along with him. Of course, one of these impetuses to emotion is Savannah.
Somehow, where in Mamma Mia! Seyfried was all charm and vivacity, she comes across as flat and insincere in Dear John. Dear John is a tear-jerker movie directed by a director with a history of intricate and emotionally touching films, Lasse Hallstrom, who also directed Hachiko: A Dog’s Story (2009), The Hoax (2006), Casanova (2005) and Chocolat (2000).The story is from a novelist reputed to be a tear-jerker novelist, Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle).
The truth is, some performers can combine sentimentality with reality and find genuine personality and expression in the midst of all that much tear-jerker-ness, while, on the other hand, some get hyper-inflated with sentimentality and ironically come across as flat, as lacking real character-wise personality. Dear John seems to put Tatum in the first category and Seyfried in the second hyper-inflated category—at least temporarily until she matures as an individual and as an actress. (Scarlett Johansson has suffered from a similar though not identical problem related to the time-and-experience game of maturity. So Seyfried is in good company.)
Dear John is nevertheless a good film to watch. The story and the personality and charm of the actors alone are worth going to the cinema for, but be forewarned that Seyfried doesn't live up to her potential. Further, the story follows the “Dear John” formula made famous in real life during World War II. Therefore, don't look for a happy ending…well, you won’t anyway…it is a Nicholas Sparks story, isn’t it?. Which brings up the frame at the beginning of the film in which we see John shot in combat.
Dear John is worth seeing, just don't be surprised that it and the Academy Awards stage never meet. The sensuality and violence make it another film for which adults will want to leave children at home and will only let savvy and mature teens go to see.
Dear John (2010)
Lasse Hallstrom - Director
Jamie Linden - Screenplay
Nicholas Sparks - Novel
Channing Tatum - John Tyree
Amanda Seyfried - Savannah Curtis
Richard Jenkins - Mr. Tyree
[Dear John seen at Reviewer's own expense.]