“Dear John” and how weakness defines character

Posted: February 15, 2010 in All, Movies, Reviews
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I let my wife pick the movie. It was Valentine’s Day, after all. Very big of me, I know.

I knew nothing of the movie “Dear John,” except that my wife said it was a chick flick and she didn’t want to drag me to it. I said we should go. While waiting on line, I saw the poster and groaned. “You didn’t tell me it was a Nicholas Sparks book.”

The first 30 minutes go something like this:

Savannah

So, what brings you here?

John looks down, dramatically.

John

Nothing.

Savannah stares wide-eyed at John.

Savannah

I can be interesting, too.

John poses, squinting at something on the horizon.

It’s very hard to care about characters you know nothing about. In the first third of the movie, there are a lot of allusions but never anything out in the open. The dialog is filled with hints but otherwise empty. My wife called John “stoic.” It’s a good term for it. But essentially we both wanted more chemistry there. It’s not until John’s tour of duty is up and has to choose whether to reenlist or stay with Savannah that anything interesting happens.

They fight.

John, the big, tough guy, breaks down in tears. Shows his soft spot. Finally.

This was the first time I cared about the characters. It’s important to establish status quo. To know what the characters do every day. What their lives are like. But sometimes a trial by fire is the only way to form a judgment. It’s easy to live day by day when things are going well. It’s more interesting to see how a character handles stress and adversity.

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