As a personal prerogative, I don’t particularly mind when a film tries to manipulate me into feeling something, especially when I actually do feel something as a result. However, I do mind (and even resent it) when a film tries to manipulate me but fails miserably for various reasons. I say this: If you’re going to be so obvious about it, at least do it right.
Adam Shankman’s “A Walk to Remember” manipulates and pulls at the heartstrings, and has a second half that is just relentless when it comes to piling on the misery. But does all this effort work? Oh yeah. If you have a heart, you can’t help but be stirred emotionally by the movie. Which is a good thing because the film’s first half is simply another retread of countless other teen High School films. (For reference to the last comment, take a look at any Freddie Prinze Jr. movie concerning high school.)
I hesitate to call “Remember” a teen drama, because its second half is so much more powerful than its first that when the credits roll, you forget the film started life as a teen flick set in high school. But of course its beginnings is very heavily set in high school, including all the trappings of a Teen Film, including cliché and highly predictable plot points.
“Remember” centers around popular guy and all-around bad boy Landon Carter (Shane West), who falls for the plain-on-the-outside-but-beautiful-on-the-inside Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore), who just happens to be a reverend’s daughter. Despite a couple of miscues courtesy of Landon’s inability to show himself “uncool” in front of his jokester friends, the two leads hook up and romance blooms. As the kids like to say, “Like, duh!”
The second half ushers in a surprise conflict that effects everyone involved, and it’s here the film stops resembling a Teen Film and becomes an adult melodrama. Mandy Moore does a fine job in (what I believe is) her first leading role, although she does show a few moments of awkwardness and inexperience. Shane West, on the other hand, is just perfect for this role. West’s rebellious Landon is dead-on, and his transformation from too-cool-for-school kid to someone who actually gives a damn about someone else rings true. This is mostly due to West’s ability to show internal conflict without saying a line of dialogue. The kid is gifted, and I can see him in more dramatic, even edgier, roles in the future. Moore probably needs more experience and work, but since she’s just 16 at the time of this movie, so she’ll get better.
Directed by Adam Shankman, “Remember” is based on a popular book of the same name by Nicholas Sparks. Despite the book’s reputation, I was hardpressed to find anything very religious-minded about the film. Yes, Jamie’s father is a reverend, but that seems to be the end of the religious angle save for a couple of brief interludes about faith. Which is something of a surprise, since I heard many detractors of the film talk about the movie as if it was a cinematic adaptation of the bible. For the most part, the movie mostly concerns itself with romance.
“Remember” is certainly not a perfect film. As mentioned, its first half is simply too contrived and a little annoying in its inability to be original, but the performances of Shane West and Mandy Moore were more than enough to overcome those disadvantages. The two actors have an easy chemistry and plays off each other well. Besides veteran actors Peter Coyote as Jamie’s father and Daryl Hannah as Landon’s mother, the film’s cast is made up mostly of unknowns.
As a teen film, “A Walk to Remember” is a case of been-there, done-that. But as a straight melodrama with heavy doses of good performances by its charming and very likeable leads, “Remember” certainly gives me faith in films with main characters under 20. Of course, this still doesn’t mean I’ll blindly walk into another Freddie Prinze Jr. movie involving high schools…
Adam Shankman (director) / Nicholas Sparks (novel), Karen Janszen (screenplay)
CAST: Shane West …. Landon Carter
Mandy Moore …. Jamie Sullivan
Peter Coyote …. Reverend Hegbert Sullivan
Lauren German …. Belinda
Daryl Hannah …. Cynthia