So…What’s Memorable About This Walk?
Romance, tears, and not a well developed character in sight – what else do you expect from the director of the so called box office hit The Wedding Planner? Adam Shankman conjures up another film that targets such a narrow audience that it completely misses the sweet spot with the majority of movie-goers. A Walk To Remember may have been ignored by most film viewers, but the posters featuring Mandy Moore and Shane West lured enough preteens and early teenagers to actually make a profit.
Although, put a good looking male who falls in love with a “Plain Jane” on the screen, and the girl masses will follow. This film gave the audience two narrative arcs for the price of one. It first began as a typical teenage movie where opposites attract, but then progresses into a mawkish tear jerker. Putting two narratives into a 100 minute feature length film forced Shankman to cut a few corners. By doing so, the characters were poorly developed, subplots were wrapped in unconvincing ways, and the entire film seems rushed.
Even after all this, the tender faces around me still gasped on cue and shed tears when the characters did. Landon Carter (Shane West) and a bunch of his beer-drinking, blaspheming friends begin the film with an initiation rite gone terribly wrong when another young man jumps from an industrial scaffolding into a shallow river. Landon is captured during his flee and is sentenced by his principle to custodial work, tutoring and participating in the spring play. The story progresses along a very predictable storyline where Landon falls in love with Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore).
She is on the latter of the social spectrum, spending Saturday mornings tutoring children, an active participant of the astronomy club and choosing to partake in the school play. In this film, she is made fun of not for her weirdness, but for her simple, earnest goodness. She is, of course, the preacher’s daughter. Landon first develops a secret friendship with Jamie when he asks for help memorizing his lines for the play. Although, when Jamie spoke to him in front of his friends about when to meet, he turns her down with a smutty remark. Jamie understands her situation, and continues on with her unaffected self esteem and leaves.
The next scene shows Landon groveling for Mandy’s help, which adds a sense of comic relief. Their friendship grows into something more and the two characters admit their love for one another. Jamie then reveals her life-altering secret. The movie takes an unbelievable leap downhill from this point. It is possible for a movie that has a terrible and clichi?? storyline to still have a chance to be good, if the characters were well developed and likeable. Unfortunately, A Walk to Remember gave the audience a list of stereotypical characters, which show an inadequate development.
Nicholas Sparks, like most authors, did more with the characters within several hundred pages, than what any director can do with 100 minutes worth of film. The words bring the characters alive, and the audience is able to personally interpret them, so they are not shown in a stereotypical fashion. The main events of the story stayed true to the book, but how each medium captivated the audience was completely different. Sparks did not turn the first date between Jamie and Landon into a corny chain of events where Jamie reveals her left shoulder, or straddles the state line.
The movie poster advertisement may have resembled a book, although it does not remotely capture the same experience. The fact that the leading characters had little dramatic range does not help the movie at all. Shane West is not much different than all the other male actors of his age. His physical appearance satisfies the appetite of many pre-teen girls, which will probably get him on the cover of many fashion magazines to come. Mandy Moore, more known for her singing, deserves applause for her effort as Jamie Sullivan.
Naturally, Shankman had to bring Mandy’s voice into the film, in which it was used to captivate Landon. Her ballad was beautiful, and proves why Mandy is known for her singing. Thankfully, her transition from a singer to an actress did not have any fatal consequences like the characters in Glitter. Surprisingly, Jamie’s father (Peter Coyote) did not play an overprotective or overly strict father, portrayed by most preachers in films. He listened to Landon with a biased, yet open mind. The fact that Jamie’s father was a preacher added a Christianity element to the film, although this was not intended.
The movie may have been bordering the line of a Sunday school special, because Jamie and her father were very active participants of the Christian religion. Landon also reads an excerpt from the bible pertaining to love. Although, Christianity were characteristics of the characters and were not planned to be main focuses. Shankman wanted the audience to concentrate more on the messages “love conquers all” and “be true to yourself”. The love between Jamie and Landon seemed real, and despite what the other characters believed, survived the downfalls of the story.
Landon needed Jamie as much as she needed him. He made her break out of her stubborn ways and live her life to its full potential. Jamie influenced Landon to cherish life and brought him guidance and the wisdom he needed. Their love for one another conquered serious issues, and gives a glimpse of hope for people who are living with the same affliction. The characters complimented each other well and gave a balance in each other lives. One wonders, was this due to Nicholas Spark’s story, or Adam Shankman’s selection of actors?
Unlike Nicholas Sparks, Shankman completely attacks the movie in the last half hour, trying to make the audience release the falls. The camera swooped heavenward enough times to hint where the movie’s final destination would be. Impassive close ups of the characters required necessary emotion from the context. An actor cannot act in a close up; the emotion is needed for the audience to be captivated by the nearness between the actor and camera. The scenes where Landon weeps uncontrollably should have been altered or taken out completely to avoid corniness.
The movie is endurable and at times touching, but necessary changes should be made to make the movie more enjoyable to a wider spectrum of audiences. Possibly more comic relief can be provided by the only African male (Andrew Daniels) in the film, unless that was Shankman’s intent in the first place. The target audience may enjoy the film, but there’s little hope than anyone other than 11-15-year old girls will be willing to endure Shankman’s films. Congratulations to A Walk to Remember for not relying on special effects, gore, vulgar language, or Jack Ass humour, to tell a story.