I’ll tell you why I like the movie “Message in a Bottle”: It’s the dialogue.
The way the characters converse in that film is real.
Without ruining too much of it for you – in case I’m not the only one who only recently came across this film that came out in 1999 – a good chunk of the story chronicles two people getting to know each other. These people don’t really know what they’re doing together, neither one is used to dating, they’ve both experienced some big pain in their own lives.
They can feel something between them, though, both chemistry and something that helps ease their respective pain, so they keep on with the hanging out and the conversing.
And they stumble through it.
This, to me, is real. And this, for me, is why I watch the film. Why I own the film. “Message in a Bottle” is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, and I’ve never read one of his novels (I did read his memoir, “Three Weeks with my Brother”). I’ve liked or disliked, to varying degrees, some of the other movies that have been made based on his books, but “Message” is the one I like the most and the only one I own.
There is a scene and line in particular in this movie that I think is probably more reflective of actual life than most of what we see in movies. In this scene, Theresa, the female lead, wakes up in the middle of the night on Garret’s couch, where they had been talking earlier that night. She realizes, remembers where she is, and goes into his bedroom where he is sleeping.
She crawls in his bed with him, fully clothed in her outfit from their date, and says, “I just want to be close.”
They don’t have sex. They just lie there together.
People, that, to me, is real. I’m not saying the sex thing doesn’t happen in life, and that we don’t sometimes bypass the vulnerable, stumbling lines of dialogue for something else (sex or otherwise – anything that takes the conversation factor out of time spent together) so that we don’t have to feel vulnerable and messy and awkward. And obviously there is a huge vulnerability factor in physical contact with someone, too.
But when we just say something simple, maybe stumbly, to another person who we are getting to know – or, heck, someone we’ve known our whole lives – I think that is what a lot of conversation is actually like.
I think we – or at least I – watch movies with dialogue between romantic partners that, yes, is very romantic and poetic and something to be praised and admired, perhaps. And we/I see it and think it would be great if we could have those things said to us and say those things to someone else.
And I’m a word freak, so I love a good string of words that just gets it so right or so beautiful, but for me, my reality with men – in my limited experience of having actual, somewhat romantic conversations with them – is that I’m more likely to say something like Theresa says to Garret (“I was nervous, so I drank too much wine” is another of her lines) than something more poetic that is said in other movies that I also love and enjoy watching.
The other thing about the “more beautiful” dialogue of most movies is that the situations surrounding them often involve people getting together – either physically, or as an established couple – really quickly. That makes it less authentic to me. Again, some people in this world do get together quickly, either in a casual way or a real way, but not me.
What I’m saying is I can’t work off a script. I just want to be close with someone, and nervous, rather than pretend I’m a character in a movie who smoothly transitions from one line to a sex scene to another line, with everyone’s makeup looking perfect.
That is not I. “Message in a Bottle” is more my speed.
(But, to be fair, Robin Wright’s fingernails are perfectly manicured in that film, in regards to my comment on makeup. I always notice that.)