Volume 92, Issue 79

Wednesday, February 17, 1998


Costner should put a cork in the Bottle

The best of Orb makes Eno bubbly

Complex novel probes virginity

Costner should put a cork in the Bottle

©Photo by Ben Glass

COME OVER AND SIT ON MY MAST. Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn put their Message in a Bottle.

By Sarah Duda

Gazette Staff

Message in a Bottle is a romantic drama which neither sinks nor swims, but merely floats along in successive waves of convention.

The story, adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, is by no means original. Nevertheless, it does address some conventionally touching themes, successfully tapping into viewers' emotions. The film stands as a timely and beneficial reminder that life is precious – a fact which is taken for granted more often than not.

The story centres around Garret Blake (Kevin Costner, The Postman), a boat builder who is unable to reconcile the recent death of his wife. He writes her love letters, places them into bottles and releases them into the sea. Robin Wright Penn (Forrest Gump) plays opposite Costner as Theresa Osborne, a newspaper researcher who discovers one of his letters when it is washed ashore. In the tradition of Sleepless in Seattle, Osborne decides she must seek out the impassioned author of the letter and proceeds to track Blake to his small North Carolina fishing community.

From there, Blake and Osborne fall in love – perhaps a little too easily – only for Osborne to painfully realize Blake is unable to let go of the memory of his wife. To further complicate things, Osborne neglects to tell Blake there was nothing coincidental about their meeting and this omission comes back to haunt her as their affair progresses. This raises the question of whether what brings two people together in the first place matters in the long run.

Ironically, this is also how viewers may feel at the end of the movie, when the story takes a surprising turn. Director Luis Mandoki attempts to shock viewers out of the impression they are watching a conventional and unoriginal film, but he takes it a step too far.

Costner's performance as the emotionally strained widower is generic and disappointingly weak. His emotional acting range is limited and he delivers his lines in a cold, detached monotone. This kind of tired performance isn't exactly conducive to an emotional commitment from the viewer. Thankfully, Penn gives a wonderful, refreshing performance and manages to effectively draw some attention away from Costner's feeble efforts.

Still, embedded in this standard drama are a number of strengths. The scenery offers viewers a pleasant escape from the Canadian winter "blahs." From sunsets over the ocean right down to the quaint beach front houses which line the shore – everything is beautiful beyond description.

Paul Newman's role as Costner's father is also a positive contribution to the film. Newman's outstanding performance never falters and he executes his role brilliantly as the man who is struggling to overcome his own difficult past, while helping his son do the same.

Message in a Bottle is reflective of its title – a film whose meaning is contained and trapped in its genre and never ventures beyond its glass. However, it forces viewers to put their own lives into perspective, by exploring themes everyone can relate to – coping with tragedy, forgiveness and learning to live with the past. Unfortunately, the strengths of the film's themes are not enough to save this movie from sinking.

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