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Message in a Bottle Reviews

This blatantly sentimental story, based a best-selling tearjerker, gets the slick Hollywood treatment fans of the genre adore, but those with a limited capacity for hokum should steer clear. Single mom Theresa (Robin Wright Penn), a researcher at the Chicago Tribune scarred by divorce, is jogging on the beach when she stumbles across a heart-rending letter in a bottle. It's addressed to a dead beloved named Catherine and signed "G." Moved by the letter writer's honesty and heartfelt emotions, she eventually tracks this paragon among men to North Carolina. Garret (Kevin Costner) turns out to be a handsome, taciturn shipbuilder whose wife died two years earlier; resolved to live in his grief, he's reluctant to act on his obvious attraction to Theresa. Theresa, for her part, doesn't reveal how she came to be in his small town, and they enjoy a platonic week of sailing before she returns home. Garret later visits Chicago and bonds with Theresa's son, but flips out when he discovers that she's collected his letters. One letter, attributed to Garret, was actually written by Catherine right before her death; as Garret reflects upon it while building his dream ship, he begins to acknowledge the possibility of a new love with Theresa. As schmaltzy and improbable as all this sounds, it has its moments on screen, and fans of the book won't be disappointed with the low-key approach to the syrupy material. Costner's performance is so understated he could easily be accused of underacting, and Newman -- playing his father -- walks off with many scenes through his powerful combination of ability, looks and a gruff, sexy voice. The extremes of this production's assets and liabilities are embodied by Caleb Deschanel's cinematography and Gabriel Yared's score: One is as glorious and transcendental as the other is execrably sappy.