Message in a Bottle

1999

Message in a Bottle

Critics Consensus

Handsome-looking but dramatically inert, Message in a Bottle maroons a formidable cast in a trite romance that lacks spark.

32%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 38

66%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 62,229
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Movie Info

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, Message In A Bottle stars Robin Wright Penn as Theresa Osborne, a writer for the Chicago Tribune. While her son visits her cheating ex-husband, Theresa goes on a vacation by herself. One day, while running on the beach, she finds a bottle washed up on the shore. She opens it and inside finds a love letter unlike any she's ever read. Captivated by the author's words of love, she returns to her job at the Tribune where she convinces her boss to run an article about the mystery writer, known only as "G." He approves, and Theresa begins her hunt. Scrutinizing every physical detail of the letter and the path the bottle may have taken, she eventually locates Garret Blake (Kevin Costner), a North Carolina boat-restorer who has not been the same since the tragic death of his beloved wife Catherine. Since her death, Garret has written several letters to his dead wife, put them in a bottles, and let them loose in the sea. As Theresa spends time with Garret, she quickly falls in love with him, though she neglects to tell him she knows about the letters. Garret, prodded by his cantankerous, no-nonsense dad, Dodge (Paul Newman), emerges from his shell of grief and develops an interest in Theresa as well. Theresa returns to Chicago and Garret soon visits her; he meets her son, Jason (Jesse James), but also discovers her knowledge of the letters. Eventually the two, who have both lost love, must cast off their emotional baggage and decide if they will pursue love even if it can't always last. ~ Ron Wells, Rovi

Cast

Kevin Costner
as Garret Blake
Robin Wright
as Theresa Osborne
Paul Newman
as Dodge Blake
Robbie Coltrane
as Charlie Toschi
John Savage
as Johnny Land
Illeana Douglas
as Lina Paul
Jesse James
as Jason Osborne
Bethel Leslie
as Marta Land
Tom Aldredge
as Hank Land
Steve Mellor
as Man on Dock
Lance A. Gilbert
as Man on Sinking Boat
Hayden Panettiere
as Girl on Sinking Boat
View All

Critic Reviews for Message in a Bottle

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (12) | Rotten (26)

Audience Reviews for Message in a Bottle

  • Feb 17, 2016
    You know that movie where a famous doctor/cannibal/serial killer cuts open a victim's skull, cuts away some brain matter w/out killing the guy, fries it up in a hot skillet, and then feeds it again to the victim ("that's good," said the poor schmuck)? Well here at last is the cinematic equivalent to that experience.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 29, 2013
    "I hope that someone gets my, I hope that someone gets my, I hope that someone gets my message in a bottle, message in a bottle. Sending out an SOS, sending out an SOS, sending out an SOS, sending out an SOS, sending out an SOS, send..." Hold on, all I did was type that and I need to catch my breath. Seriously though, I guess Kevin Costner could work Sting, with some work that is, but he's not about four years younger than Sting, so there's no way this biopic could work all that terribly well unless it were to cover events in Sting's life from the '80s or early '90s or something. Jeez, I wish this was as uncheesy as the origin story of the guy who would go on to write a song called "De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da", but no, this is the origin story of Nicholas Sparks, and sure enough, we're looking at a mediocre start to a mediocre series of film adaptations that still hasn't stopped Sparks from being about as frequently adapted as Stephen King, and still able to get more stars than space. Speaking of which, in the '90s, alone, you knew that Paul Newman was getting old when it got to the point to where he could play Kevin Costner's dad, but hey, I'll run with it, because it's still a pretty great casting choice, and decidedly more so than the choice of getting Costner to play Sting. Jokes aside, casting isn't the only thing done right in this film, for although this film is a mess, it's not without certain undeniable strengths that keep it from sinking. Only so much effort is put into dolling up this film, but we're still talking about cinematographic efforts by the great Caleb Deschanel, and sure enough, while the film isn't all that much of a consistent stunner, it is often quite pretty, boasting that distinctly Caleb Deschanel flavor that plays with lighting balance in a tasteful fashion, gracing the more naturally lit areas with a reasonably appealing warmth, while making the more glow-heavy spots near, if not decidedly gorgeous, particularly when photographic scope is played up to give you an attractive feel for the film's environments. When the film hits on a visual level, it hits pretty hard, not exactly looking all-out radiant, but mighty good nonetheless, and such aesthetic engagement value helps in getting it by, but not as much as the engagement value behind the performances within this colorful cast of, well, underwritten talents. Our performers don't have too much to work with, and it doesn't help that much of this script's dialogue is about as hard to sell as a copy of "Wyatt Earp" on VHS (Sorry, Kevin), but if these cast members deliver on nothing else, it is, of course, charisma, with the unfortunately underused Paul Newman stealing just about every scene he graces with his legendary charm, while leads Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn keep this romance story from slipping too considerably by sharing a commendable bit of chemistry. A leading duo's chemistry is, of course, key in getting a romantic opus like this by, and while Costner's and Penn's charismas aren't bridged by sparks, or at least not so much intensity that you can ignore the film's dramatic shortcomings, they supplement charm, this film's greatest strength. Now, that being said, the film isn't so charming that you have enough fun with it to walk away having fully enjoyed yourself, but whether it be because of its active attempts at charming the audience, or simply its somewhat endearing ambition, disdain toward this film is hard something fierce to sustain. Entertainment value gradually augments as the film unravels, and by the end, it's alright, with the final act being ever so shockingly pretty strong, and while decency falls upon this film much too late for the final product to, on the whole, battle back mediocrity, decency is in view enough for you to see what could have been, even if its not much. Still, make no mistake, the final product, regardless of its relative high notes, doesn't make it through and through, being almost enjoyable, but generally much too flawed to be likable, or even memorable, notably when it comes to pacing. It's not exactly all over the place, but the film's pacing is decidedly uneven, taking damage from repetitious fat around the edges that drags pacing down to the point of making the final product's gratuitous 130-minute-long runtime feel longer than it actually is, though not long enough for you to feel that the film is as meditative with its substance as it should be, as there are still enough slapdashed areas to thin out expository depth, and quite a bit of it. The charm within the performances help in getting you about as reasonably attached to the characters as you can be, but on paper, the characterization that is so very crucial in a film of this type feels undercooked, distancing your investment about as much as the cheesiness that isn't as considerable as I feared, but more pronounced than it should be, even in the music department. You may remember Gabriel Yared as the score composer of "The English Patient", "City of Angels", "1408" and many other films that were graced by tasteful, if a bit conventional original soundtracks, which makes it all the more unfortunate that Yared should fall so flat with his efforts for this film, because if a musical touch is not the occasional lame '90s soul tune, then it's a trite, weakly contemporaneous score piece, or at least that's the case until the film's latter acts, in which Yared strangely finds inspiration, but not quickly enough to be forgiven for the underwhelming efforts that corn things up, though not as much as the dialogue, which either gets better as the film goes along, or is gotten used to after a while, but is consistently fall-flat to one degree or another, ranging from underwhelming to just plain bad, failing to color up a story that desperately needs refreshment. From my understanding, this is hardly the most over-the-top Nick Sparks film adaptation, and I reckon I can see that, because this film isn't exactly Lifetime histrionic, but it is histrionic, tainting graceful subtlety and genuineness with disengagingly manufactured dramatic notes that are too superficial for you to fully run with. It's all too easy to deduce the outcome of this unlikely rom-dram, and that's if you take this story's conventionalism out of consideration, something that you're bound to have trouble doing, because, as you can imagine, this film is formulaic as all get-out, following the same beat and path that oh so many films of this type have hit, almost to a tee, to the point of not simply being conventional or generic, but just plain borderline trite. It's almost painfully obvious to see where this film is going, and that ignites enough blandness, and when you work in all of the histrionics and pacing issues, then you end up with a film that would be all-out dull if it wasn't for the charm that is still not strong enough to be overpowered by some degree of blandness. There aren't too many flaws to this film, but neither are there too many strengths, and when it's all said and done, the flaws outweigh the strengths, while what really towers over all is, of course, the mediocrity, for although this film has its high notes, it ultimately falls flat as just another paint-by-numbers, somewhat messily composed romantic melodrama that could have been more, yet is ultimately nothing short of utterly inconsequential and forgettable. When it's all washed up, you're left looking at a film that has its high notes, being very well-shot and reasonably well-acted, with a chemistry between leads Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn that supplements the charm that almost saves the film as decent, but doesn't quite make the cut, boasting pacing issues that drag out runtime and thins out expository depth, while cheesing things up with a flawed soundtrack, lame dialogue-heavy script, and disconcertingly dramatically manufactured story that, when exacerbated by overwhelming conventionalism, ignites a considerable blandness that makes "Message in a Bottle" an inconsequential misfire that borders on fair, but ultimately falls flat as mediocre. 2.25/5 - Mediocre
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2011
    If this American romantic drama directed by Luis Mandoki didn't have Paul Newman in it, it would be a real disaster! Based on a novel with the same name by Nicholas Sparks, the film stars Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn, but even they could not help such a boring screenplay with uninspired directing... Theresa Osborne works for The Chicago Tribune as a researcher. On a trip to Cape Cod, she finds a mysterious, intriguing love letter in a bottle in the sand, addressed from G. to Catherine. She is fascinated by it and comes into possession of two more letters by the same person, eventually tracking down the man who wrote them, Garret Blake. Thant's all you want to know - everything else you would love to forget!
    Panta O Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2011
    I cry every time I see this :´(
    Andreia C Super Reviewer

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