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Laramie Movie Scope:
Message in a Bottle

Love letters stuck in the sand

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 14, 1999 -- "Message in a Bottle" is a slow-moving romantic story with good actors trapped in an ultimately unsatisfying plot.

Kevin Kostner stars as the bottle man Garrett Blake, a guy who writes terribly romantic messages, puts them in bottles and hurls them out to sea and then gets mad at the people who find them. Since he does get mad, it is a good thing that newspaper researcher Theresa Osborne (Robin Penn Wright of "Forrest Gump") doesn't tell Blake right away that she tracked him down because of the messages.

Osborne finds the first message herself while running along the beach. After a newspaper column about the letter, she reads two other letters from the same source and tracks down Blake. The two fall in love. Everything seems to be sailing along quite well until Blake discovers the letters in Osborne's apartment and gets mad. Then, of course, there is the reconciliation and then the ending, which I did not like. For more ranting and raving on that subject, see the spoiler section below.

If you are a sailor at heart, you will like the sailing scenes in this film, along with the boat building scenes. The beach front setting is very romantic and there are some great old wooden sailing boats. Garrett has set up a kind of shrine to his departed wife in his picturesque house where he seems to wallow in his sorrow. There is also an annoying subplot involving a squabble with the in laws over his late wife's paintings.

Kostner and Wright both do well in their parts, but are overshadowed by Paul Newman, who plays Kostner's father. Newman steals every scene he is in and makes you wish he is in many more scenes (he plays the same kind of character he played in last year's "Twilight," a film noir detective tale now out on home video, a must see for fans of Newman and noir). The pacing of the movie, however is clunky and slow and the dialogue is labored, that, plus the ending push the ranking of this film down to a C.

Click here for links to places to buy this movie in video and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

Spoiler alert!

The reason I did not like the ending to this film is that it is essentially a fairly light romance. Giving it such a tragic ending does not add to its meaning. The tragedy is not character-driven, it is arbitrary. I don't like this type of arbitrary death in a film any more than I liked the arbitrary violence in "Boogie Nights." Some people are so sick and tired of happy endings that they prefer a tragic ending. I don't, except when a tragic ending is a logical consequence of a believable series of actions by the characters, as in the deliciously ironic and tragic conclusion of "A Simple Plan," or the bizarre tragic end to "The English Patient."

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Copyright © 1999 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]