**If you plan on watching Dear John, do not read this post. Spoilers ahead.**
We finally watched Dear John on opening night, last Friday. I tried so hard not to have high expecations for the movie because they always say that the book is always better, and unfortunately, this was the case. I was hoping the movie would be equally intriguing as the book, mainly doing the characters in the book justice. The portrayal of John and Savannah by Channing Tatum and Amanda Seyfried were disappointing. Regardless of the poor acting, one thing that would have made a big difference (I think) is if John narrated his thoughts, experiences and sentiments towards Savannah and his father, as you read in the book. I think the movie would have been more powerful and you can feel for all of the characters. The biggest criticism is that there was a lack of character development.
There were so many discrepancies throughout the movie, if not missing key scenes. It starts with John on the pier as he glimpses over at a group of co-eds – no build-up of what he was observing of Savannah’s beauty and dimeanor here. You just see the purse drop into the water and he jumps in to retrieve it. Savannah thanks him and I already knew after her first line that the acting was going to be bad.
In the book I really felt John fascination with the “good girl” Savannah was – almost like he was not good enough for someone like her – she was smart, innocent, compassionate, thoughtful, a good listener and selfless. But in the movie, I almost felt like Savannah was a ditsy, loose-lipped, bossy, sorority girl. I was SO disappointed in the portrayal of Savannah – I wonder who would have done a better job playing her – Rachel McAdams (from The Notebook, another Sparks novel) or Natalie Portman – someone who is wholesome and sweet. Aesthetically speaking, John’s character did not have tattoos and Savannah was blonde versus her brunette character in the book.
Tim, the likeable friend of Savannah, played a completely different character. Instead of being the older brother of a young autistic boy Alan, he was actually played the boy’s father! In the novel, John can see Tim’s love for Savannah, even past the protective “big brother” role that Savannah considered him as. I think he was still likeable, but he lacked that “leadership” quality and seemed more meek and fragile. I still think Henry Thomas (the little boy from E.T.) played a good Tim.
Richard Jenkins, who played Mr. Tyree (John’s father) did a great job with the portrayal. I just wished they showed John’s growing appreciation for this father as well as the conversation they had about how he met his mother. It was evident that Mr. Tyree was always there for his son no matter what, always seeing him off at each deployment. There was a touching scene between him and his father during their last moment together in the hospital where John read a letter to him about how he felt about him – that was the height of Tatum’s acting in the film. I cried.
The ending of the movie was different from the book. I’m not sure which one was better. I think the film was closer to the ending I predicted for the book. I’d say both were good endings.
Scenes I did not like in the film:
- Savannah demanding to see John’s father that night – she seemed bossy.
- Savannah’s reaction to John announcing his father passed away.
- Savannah telling John that his father is autistic.
- The speed of Savannah’s courtship with Tim – John receives a letter that they’re engaged.
- Tim as a father vs. a big brother.
What I did like about the film:
- The ending – it surprised me, but I didn’t mind it.
- The scene of them taking Mr. Tyree to meet Savannah’s parents – that wasn’t in the book but it really showed his autistic characteristics and made you feel for him.
- How John discovered who Savannah married.
- The story of why the “mule” his father hung on to was so special.
- The scene where Mr. Tyree had three place settings “in case” Savannah made it to dinner.
After writing this post, I realize that Seyfried’s portrayal ruined it for me. I bet if I didn’t read the book, that I’d like the movie more. But from the start of the movie, I was already turned off by the poor acting. If you watch this movie, catch a matinee or wait until it’s available OnDemand. It was nice going out with the hubs, either way. :)