A Walk To Remember (2001)
Staring: Shane West, Mandy Moore, Peter Cyote and Daryl Hannah
Directed by Adam Shankmen
Written by Karen Janzen
Based upon the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Review by Tim Ryberg
This isn’t the type of movie that I normally look for. It definitely falls into the category of a “chick flick” with the all to predictable story of bad boy meets good girl and they fall in love with a the twist that she happens to be a pastor’s daughter and a person of deep faith. But it there is more here than meets the eye.
DVD Extras ***
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“Each spring in the little port town of Beaufort, North Carolina, Landon Carter remembers his senior year at Beaufort High and Jamie Sullivan, the girl who changed his life.”This is how the official website < http://www.awalktoremember.com/ > introduces the film, but this describes the novel more than the movie.In the coastal North Carolinian small town of Beaufort North Carolina in the mid 1990’s, “serious and conservative Jamie” (singer Mandy Moore, Walt Disney’s “The Princess Diaries”) was “as far from cool as she could possibly be — and didn’t care.” Landon (Shane West, TV’s “Once And Again”) “hung with the in-crowd, an aimless, moody, reckless guy who breezed through school on looks and bravado and had no plans, no future and no faith in himself”, let alone God. When a hazing incident goes terribly wrong landing another teen in the hospital, Landon is assigned extra-curricular service (to assist the school janitorial staff after school, tutor a young student on Saturdays, and participate in the Drama Club’s spring play) as punishment. This throws him into the world of Jamie Sullivan, the town’s Baptist minister’s daughter, “a seemingly awkward yet beautiful girl” with a huge heart.
Clearly in over his head with two of the three assignments, Landon is forced to ask Jamie for help. At first she says, “I’ll pray for you.” But before long, she gives him tutoring tips and they run lines together.
Of course, they have a fight when he snubs her in front of his friends (gotta have conflict after all), but he manages to finish learning his lines on his own and the play is a huge success. The next day the two of them make up and begin seeing each other.
Jamie has a “to-do” list for her life (befriend someone she doesn’t like, spend a year in the Peace Corp, be two places at once, get a tattoo, etc.), which he helps her check off one by one. She shares with him her hobby of star watching from the telescope that she built when she was 12 (this sounds like a big cliché, but it didn’t come off that way), but also has a very big secret she is keeping from Landon. Against her father’s wishes, they spend more and more time together and they “grow hesitantly closer than their previous adversarial relationship as old bonds are tested and new awareness’s are inspired.” This, of course, causes tension between Landon and his friends and they eventually part ways when he stands up to them after they humiliate her in front of much of the school.Soon, “against his own expectations and the scorn of his friends”, Landon “finds himself falling in love with this outwardly plain girl who possesses a passion for life that he never imagined possible.” She finds that she is falling in love with him as well, but the two are only able to enjoy it for a short time.About an hour into the film Jamie — at the urging of her father — decides to share her secret and drops a bombshell on Landon: “I have Leukemia. I found out two years ago. I have stopped responding to treatments.” She didn’t tell anyone this earlier because she didn’t want other people to be weird around her — ESPECIALLY him.Of course he takes it badly (who wouldn’t?), first running to his estranged cardiologist father for help, then sulking for a while, as his friends one by one approach him and make up. Finally he approaches the Reverend Sullivan and asks him to tell Jamie that “I’m not going anywhere.”
The rest if the film is fairly predictable. Jamie’s condition deteriorates. He builds her a new — bigger– telescope to see a comet that is coming and she really wants to see. When she becomes more or less bed ridden, his father (a wealthy cardiologist) pays for home treatments for her and
She lives long enough to see her comet. On the night it appears, after watching it together, Landon proposes to her and a few days later they get married like she always wanted at the church where her mother grew up and her parents were married.
They have one last summer together “filled with more love than some people see in a lifetime.” In the end, Landon states simply , “and then she went . . . with her unfailing faith.”
Four years later, Landon returns to Beaufort to see her father. He has graduated college and gotten into medical school. He has come to tell him this and to give him a book given to him by Jamie just before they got married that had belonged to her mother.
“It’s been four years but the visions of Jamie walking toward me will stay with me forever.
“Jamie saved my life. She taught me everything about life, hope, and the long journey ahead.
“I’ll always miss her. But our love is like the wind. I can’t see it, but I can feel it. . . . “
Beautiful done ending to a beautiful story!I can not emphasize how much I love this film! The acting is superb from all involved — most notably Mandy Moore, whom I wasn’t expecting to be that good after seeing her mediocre performance as Lanna in “The Princess Diaries” — and the writing was on the mark. I wish they had left the romance a little longer (they fall in love in the space of 40 minutes), but it does not come off rushed. I also wish that a couple of the deleted scene conversations that they had about faith and God had been left in. This was done to make it more popular with the secular audience. Some would say that her illness is drawn out too long, but I disagree. I think they got that part about right. It would have been too abrupt to have her go from showing no outward signs of illness to death in less than the 25-30 minutes it takes.That about sums up my opinion of the film based upon the first viewing. But I wouldn’t be doing my duty as a reviewer if I left it there. So I watched a couple more times, read the book and script, and am now going to give you a more detailed analysis.
This movie gets a lot of things right that Hollywood usually gets wrong:
1. It portrays a very realistic love and romance.Holy cow, folks! We have a teen romance without the angst, nudity, or sex! The characters show us how they feel about each other by what they SAY, and what the do FOR each other, not TO each other. What a RADICAL CONCEPT!2. It portrays Christianity in a positive light — both Jamie and her father seem like average, normal, real Christians.Why does Hollywood hate Christians? It seems that every time we see someone in a movie or on TV who is a “Christian” he or she is either a stereotype (SNL’s “The Church Lady” or “Ned Flanders” on The Simpsons), or two dimensional (“Grams” from most of the first season of Dawson’s Creek)? We have none of that here.Often times Hollywood portrays pastors as being not “real” people. But I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a couple pastors outside of the parish and I can assure you that they are “real” people too. They are not perfect and do not pretend to be. In this respect, Hegbert [Rev. Sullivan] is very true to life. He was a father first and a pastor second.Jamie is a person of deep faith and isn’t afraid to admit it [“I have my beliefs, I have faith.” “Landon, without suffering there would be no compassion”]. But at the same time she has a sense of humor [telling Landon “I’ll pray for you” when he asks her for help with his lines].3. The situations the teens find themselves in are very real and easy to relate. The “hazing” incident that Landon and his friends participated in in the opening of the film was very realistic and I could imagine people I went to high school with doing things like that (I graduated in 1994). Interaction between the same group of friends is very realistic as well. The characters swear — though this was curt-tailed in the editing room to give it a PG rating — when it seems they would. This is NOT a sugar-coated “golly gee”, Walt-Disney-esque, “family oriented” film (not that I have a problem with that, mind you). It’s “real” without being gritty.
The actor’s performances:
They were perfect.Daryl Hannah and Peter Cyote did great jobs as Landon and Jamie’s respective parents. Hegbert came off more like a real human than he did in the book and Mrs. Carter was warm, caring, and more grounded than her book counterpart.Shane West nailed his part. I can’t say I’ve seen him in much of anything else off the top of my head (I’ve never seen “Once And Again” and only watched “Get Over It” once), so I have nothing to really compare him to. But I was impressed.It’s hard to believe that this is only Mandy Moore’s second film (the first being a small part as a bitch cheerleader in Disney’s “The Princess Diaries”). This woman can act! She’s a natural. Brittany Spears, eat your heart out! Look for more from her in the future. An actress who can act AND sing like she can definitely has career prospects. Watch for her next film “How to Deal” in the summer of 2003.All of the supporting cast did great jobs. They were “real” to me and that’s the most important thing. Eric, however, was a sexist pig. In the director’s commentary it was revealed that the actor rewrote his lines. While he played the character well, I did not appreciate the humor.
USE OF MUSIC:
Having one of the lead characters played by a well established singer, it was a foregone conclusion that they were going to have her sing on the soundtrack, but fortunately they resisted the temptation to fill the soundtrack with her music. Mandy Moore only sings on the soundtrack 5 times, and only 4 of the songs appear on the soundtrack CD. The first was in church (“Lighthouse” the one they left off the CD), the second was in the school play (“Only Hope”), the third and fourth were songs played in the background, one being a duet (“It’s Gonna Be Love” and “Someday We’ll Know”), and the fifth one over the credits (“Cry”). All songs were well chosen. They were chosen to fit the movie. They didn’t try to write the movie around the songs, and only “Cry” appeared separately on one of her albums.The rest of the movie soundtrack was well chosen to fit the story. The Christian band Switcfoot did the bulk of it; “Dare You To Move” and “Learning to Breathe”, from their then current album “Learning to Breathe” along with “You” and “Only Hope”. The rest of it was a mix of things from various artists, including Toploader (a cover or “Dancin’ In The Moonlight”), Rachel Lampa (“If You Believe”), Cold (“No One”), New Radicals (“Mother, We Just Can’t Get Enough”), and West, Gould & Fitzgerald (“So What Does It All Mean”).
Overall I think this movie was an improvement over the book, which is hard to do. The book was quite good.Karen Janzen, the screenwriter, chose to respect the “broad strokes” of the original story and freely adapt the details which I think she did well. There are a few things from the book that I wish they had kept, but as a whole she made good choices.
The movie was written for a broader audience than the book. Discussions about faith were kept to a minimum. We see that Jamie has faith and beliefs, but are not clobbered by it like we are in the book.
Some Christians were disappointed here, but I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me wishes that they had left more in there, and part of me thinks it’s for the best that they did it the way they did so that more people would see it. By making it more palatable to the secular audience, it witnessed to more people. We never heard her mention “the Lord’s plan” until she was sick in the hospital. She didn’t have to.
Jamie’s mother’s back story was completely omitted in the movie and I wish it hadn’t been. It gives both Jamie and Hegbert more depth in the book; something that could have been used here. Specifically, the woman, who was 20 years younger than Hegbert, had experienced 6 miscarriages before she succeeded in giving birth to Jamie, at the cost of her own life (the fact that Jamie was her Seven’s pregnancy can’t be a coincidence given the religious nature of the book).
The old beat up Bible that Jamie carried around had belonged to her mother. She’d had it with her in the hospital with her when she died and Hegbert took it home at the same time he’d brought Jamie home. In the movie, we never found out why Jamie carried around that Bible all the time, or why it was such a ragged one. In fact, we really only saw it once, while in the book is is mentioned repeatedly.
Landon was changed quite a bit in the movie from how he was in the book. The most startling change is the fact that in the book, Landon has at least some faith when he meets Jamie, but in the movie he doesn’t (or at least says he doesn’t) until he and Jamie spend time together. Personally, I think this is an improvement and believe that a lot of teens/young adults will find a kindred spirit in him. In the book Landon has definite plans for his future, but in the movie he does not make future plans until he and Jamie get close. In the book, he is one of the ringleaders of his group, but the movie he seems to be more of a follower. In both versions, Landon is a good person who loves Jamie. In both versions, he makes the choice to spend more time with her and less with them, causing a conflict that must be resolved after Jamie’s illness becomes public.The conflict between Landon and his father was rewritten and made more definite in the movie, but frankly, I think it should have been omitted to give more screen time to other, more important parts of the story.In the book, Landon’s father was a senator who was still married to his mother, but Landon felt estranged from him because he spend 9 months out of the year three hundred miles away in Washington DC. In the movie he is a Cardiologist and they are divorced. The circumstances are left simply as “he left us.” He is now remarried, but trying to reconnect. Mrs. Carter has forgiven him, but Landon still hasn’t. His feeling of abandonment may be a reason he acts out as much as he does, but this is never explored. Landon suddenly forgives him and they make up after he agrees to pay for home treatments for Jamie. This is about the only thing I can think of in the movie that I had a problem believing.The first time I saw the film I wondered why he was in the movie at all — numerous other characters having been cut — but then I read the book and realized that he was a leftover from the book. I believe that his inclusion was un-necessary to the story and should have been left on the editing room floor to make room for something more relevant. They could have found another way for Jamie to get treatments at home (the congregation taking up a collection, perhaps?).Jamie was almost the same character she was in the book and barely changes in the story. The things they changed were because they had to to fit the new time period (the book takes place in 1958-9 and the movie c.1996), for instance they replaced her hobby of volunteering at an orphanage in the book and made her a tutor to underprivileged kids in the movie. They rewrote her dialog to make her more modern and less of a caricature (in the book she said “it’s the Lord’s plan” a few too many times for secular taste). They gave her the ability to singe so Mandy could sing in the spring play.Hegbert came off as a total caricature of an “old man” minister obsessed with “fornicators” during the most of the book. In the movie they made him a few years younger (he was supposed to be ancient — in his 70’s, which seems ancient to most teens — in the book) and made him an over-protective but well meaning father. Mrs. Carter was a total priss in the book. She couldn’t cook or clean house, and whined if she got mustard on her fingernails because it took a few days to get them completely clean again, so they had a maid and a cook (they were also quite wealthy). In the movie she was much more grounded, single mom who loved her son.Landon’s Friends have all been completely rewritten/replaced in the film. The only noticeable similarity is that Eric is still his best friend.Eric Hunter was Landon’s best friend and a “jock” in the book. He teased Landon a lot, but there was no significant conflict between them. In the movie he is a cocky black kid who thinks he’s funny, making bad (sexist) jokes about the drama teacher. This was done to give the film some humor, but as far as I am concerned, the humor was NOT appreciated and it is one of the things that I could have lived without.Belinda was Landon’s ex-girlfriend who couldn’t let go of him. She became jealous when Landon kissed Jamie in the play and sought revenge by masterminding the “Virgin Mary” fliers to embarrass them. But of course when she found about Jamie’s illness she apologized to Landon (though, oddly, not to Jamie, even though she was far more hurt by it) showing that she was not all bad. In the book, Landon’s ex girlfriend was named Angela. Landon said that they had dated the previous year and that she was the first girl he had ever French-kissed, but that she had dumped him. Her sole purpose in the book seemed to be to get drunk at the homecoming dance so Landon and Jamie had to take her home. There was no real conflict between them and it appears that Landon still had feelings for her. I think the movie was a great improvement here and made her a much more integral part of the story than the book.Dean and Tracy were made up for the movie and did not appear in the book. Dean was created to be an adversary for Landon (he was now the ring leader of his group of friends). It is unknown what Tracy’s role was other than being Dean’s girlfriend. She was mostly just “there” during the film and I would assume she had scenes left on the cutting room floor.The play was different in the movie than it was in the book. The original play was a semi-autobiographical Christmas play written by Rev. Hegbert Sullivan which was more or less a rewrite of “A Christmas Carol” told contemporarily, involving a man’s search for a Christmas gift for his daughter, and an angel. The book goes into great detail in the plot of it. The main character’s name was Tom Thornton, a name which was kept in the movie.The new play was written by Eddie Zimmerhoff (a student in the movie) with words and music by Jamie Sullivan (an excuse for Mandy to sing) and takes place during prohibition (the period in the 1920’s when the US made production, sale, or possession of all forms of alcoholic beverages illegal). The lead character’s name is Tom Thornton (the same as the book) who is the owner/operator of a “speak easy” a place where people could come to purchase and drink the illegal liquid. The plot of the play was never explained much and we are left to infer that Tom breaks up with a woman, Caroline (played by Sally), over his alcohol running — a necessary evil if you operate a “speak easy” — and the dreams that he has about another woman, played by Jamie, who he later hires as a singer. The play ends when Caroline leaves him alone with Jamie’s and she sings to him. He tells her that she is beautiful (a line not in the script) and after she sings “Only Hope” he kisses her (something that does not appear in the script), she kisses him back and the curtain falls. To Sum It Up:Overall I think this movie is well worth watching and I recommend it to almost anyone who loves a good romance or a story about faith. It’s the Love Story (1970) for the current generation.Some will think it does not do justice to either but I think they got it just right in the balance for the wider audience. Viewers need to remember that this is Landon’s story, not Jamie’s and watch it with that in mind.
|Cast and Crew Info|
|Mandy Moore “Cry” music video|
|Audio Commentary by Director Adam Shankmen, Shane West, and Mandy Moore|
|Audio Commentary by Novelist Nicholas Sparks and Screenwriter Karen Janzen|
I found both commentaries informative and entertaining. The only thing I would have changed would have been to have Adam Shankmen in both commentaries because I think he could have added some insight to the commentary by the writers (things were changed in the script at his request and later in the editing room effecting the story).Shankmen mentions that there are 36 deleted scenes in the film (and tells us what a couple of them are) but none are included in the DVD even though there was plenty of space. Some of them sounded interesting. Fans, write in and ask for a Special Edition!