Movie Review: Message in a Bottle (1999)

“A story of love lost and found.”

1 Stars
Message in a Bottle (1999)

Message in a Bottle (1999)


Director: Luis Mandoki

Cast: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright, Paul Newman

Synopsis: A woman decides to track down the author of a heartbreaking love letter she finds in a bottle.


Robin Wright Penn (Forrest Gump, Adore) is a researcher for a newspaper who comes across a message in a bottle while jogging on the beach.   The message is a beautifully written Mills and Boon type love message to a dead woman.   Intrigued, Ms Penn uses the newspaper’s resources to track down the writer of the message and travels to his hometown to discover he’s an emotionally-wounded boat-building hunk in the shape of Kevin Costner (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Criminal).   A tentative romance begins, but it’s overshadowed by the fact that she neglects to reveal how she found him in the first place.

Message in a Bottle is the kind of slushy romantic melodrama Hollywood was producing on an almost weekly basis back in the 1940s.   You could just see, say, Ronald Colman and Claudette Colbert in the Penn and Costner roles here.   While a throwback to the golden age of Hollywood movie-making isn’t necessarily a bad thing, what does shackle an otherwise acceptable story is a sluggish pace and unnecessary sub-plots that serve only to test the audience’s patience.   While some have criticised Kevin Costner’s performance, he does fairly well by a character that is supposed to be dour and awkward around people.   Penn gives an appealing performance, but it’s Paul Newman (Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids) as Costner’s crusty old dad who gets all the best lines and effortlessly steals the film from the two leads.

Had Luis Mandoki’s direction been tighter and a few superfluous scenes been jettisoned – that sub-plot with Costner’s ex-wife’s family, for example, and a couple of those excruciating scenes in Penn’s apartment where they laugh nervously at each other for what seems forever – the film would have worked a whole lot better.   It would still have been little more than a typical Mills and Boon tale with elevated production values, but it would at least have been more entertaining.

(Reviewed 20th December 2011)





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