A Walk to Remember
Director: Adam Shankman
Cast: Mandy Moore, Shane West, Peter Coyote, Daryl Hannah
Released: January 25, 2002
Disclaimer: I apologize for how this review looks; I know it looks like a hot mess.
SPOILERS AHOY! MAJOR SPOILERS AHOY IF YOU'VE NEVER SEEN THIS MOVIE! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!
Oh, Nicholas Sparks. He has a way of creating a love story between two unlikely people that you're rooting for, then at the very end, putting the knife in you side and twisting it. I've never actually read any of his books and I've only seen two movies his books are based on: this one and The Notebook. I would say these two (especially The Notebook!) are the most popular. I heard the book version of A Walk to Remember takes place in the '50s. I'm very glad they updated it to "modern" times for the movie. Also, interestingly enough, The Notebook was published three years before A Walk to Remember was, but as a film, The Notebook came out two years after the release of A Walk to Remember. Did that make any sense? Wait, should book titles and movie titles both be italicized? Now I'm confusing myself!
When I first saw this way back when, I had no idea what the "walk" they were referencing in the title meant, but after seeing the movie, I was like, oh, yeah, duh, I should have gotten that. This movie is as hokey as it gets and I know it's emotionally manipulating, but it got me, I won't lie. The main premise of the movie is that the "bad boy" falls in love with the "good girl", you know, that old cliche! They are both high school seniors and live in the small town of Beaufort, North Carolina.
When we first meet Landon (Shane West), our bad boy in question, he is part of the cool and popular kids at school and he and his friends have skipped out on a school dance (where they have been drinking beer) to go to some abandoned factory near a lake. They are waiting on a kid named Clay because they have told him if he does some sort of initiation, he will be able to be part of their group. Now you would think Clay would be some kind of stereotype of the type of kid high school bullies like to make fun of: the fat kid or the geeky scrawny kid with glasses, but Clay appears to look fairly normal. He seems like he's perfectly capable of making his own friends and not hanging out with this group of cretins. Also, if you need to do something dangerous (or anything, really, but especially if it's something dangerous) to prove your worthiness to be friends with someone, maybe you shouldn't be friends with them in the first place. Just saying. They want Clay to climb some scaffolding, then jump into the lake below him. The whole time they are all giggling, which is another sign that Clay shouldn't have done this. They obviously want him to make a fool out of himself. It looks to be about a three story jump and looks to be very dangerous if they don't know how deep the lake is. He does ask them, but they tell him they don't know, but that it's perfectly safe. Landon even climbs up there with him and tells him he's going to jump with him, but of course he doesn't, he just pretends like he's going to jump. We do find out later that Landon did this jump before and while he didn't seriously injure himself, he did admit it hurt like hell. I guess that's what he was thinking that would happen to Clay. I honestly couldn't remember what the end results were, but I knew they weren't going to kill him off because they do want the audience to like Landon by the end of the movie and I knew if he had involuntarily killed another kid, that probably wouldn't be a good look on him! After he jumps, he doesn't resurface for the longest time, so they do make you think that something might have happened to him and even the other kids are quite concerned. He does resurface, but he appears to be hurt and/or unconscious. Landon manages to pull him out of the lake, but has to run because the police has caught up with them and ends up crashing his car and needs to walk around with crutches for awhile. Clay ends up in the hospital, but I'm not exactly sure what happened to him, like, was he paralyzed or did he break a bone?
The following Sunday, his mother (played by Daryl Hannah) makes him attend church where Reverend
Sullivan (played by Peter Coyote) talks about what happened the other night and how Clay's life was saved by the lord. He tells the parish, "Let us pray for the lives of the others involved who are clearly not on the path of righteousness" while giving the stinkeye to Landon. This pastor does not like Landon one bit. His daughter, Jamie (played by Mandy Moore), sings in the church and even has her own solo, because, of course she does. She's the pastor's daughter, after all! We get our first little hint that Landon finds her attractive when she starts singing in her angelic voice. Landon's ex-girlfriend, Belinda, who hangs in the same cool kid group and wants to get back together with him, notices Landon noticing Jamie. The movie does its best to make Mandy Moore look pretty frumpy, but you can still tell she's a pretty girl. She's supposed to be this religious bookworm who doesn't have any friends because everyone makes fun of her for wearing dumpy pea-colored cardigans and long skirts and matronly dresses. One thing they do to make her look less pretty is give her these awful bangs. I don't know what is going on with them, but even Mandy Moore can barely pull them off. I mean, they're so bad that she has her bangs pulled back in a barrette in the movie poster! She's not totally socially incapable, though. When one of Landon's cool kid friends (and the biggest douche of the group), Dean, asks her, "If there's a higher power, why can't he get you a new sweater?", she retorts, "He's too busy looking for your brain." Ooh, burn!
|And now I'm ready to
The next Monday, Landon reports to the principal's office where he informs Landon that students saw him drinking Saturday night, the night of the dance, on school property. That seems to be the main thing he's getting in trouble for as Clay isn't talking about what happened (interesting; why is he protecting those a*holes or is he just worried what will happen if he does squeal?) and the factory owner isn't pressing charges for trespassing. Not sure what kind of factory they were trespassing in. Landon doesn't get expelled, but he does get a hefty punishment: he will help the janitorial staff after school (he even makes a remark about wanting to get paid for it; shut up, dude!), he will tutor "disadvantaged students" at their sister school on Saturday mornings, and will participate in the drama club's spring play. Now, if I were a theater student, I would be a little offended that that would be considered as a punishment, but they will also have more to be offended about concerning all of this.
Of course Jamie also tutors on Saturday mornings, but not because she's in trouble, because if you haven't
realized by now, she never gets in trouble. Not that I'm judging her because I was a goody goody in school too even though I got detention once because I was one minute (if that!) late to class after lunch. Don't you think that's a bit extreme? I sure do. No, Jamie does it out of the goodness of her heart, because she wants to. She really does not care what people think about her because on the bus ride home, she goes over to sit next to Landon, who is listening to his headphones, and asks him if he wants to buy raffle tickets to raise money to buy new computers. He ignores her and she tries to give him tips on tutoring, but he is still ignoring her. She then proceeds to ask him if he's visited Clay in the hospital and when she is still ignored by him, she says to herself, "That would be a no." She then tells him that Clay has been moved from the hospital to the rehab place. Again, I have no idea what happened to Clay after he jumped off that scaffolding. Landon tells her that her social skills need some work and you know what? I kinda agree with him. She really needs to know how to read a room, or in this case, bus. Also, what is the point of talking to someone if they don't want to talk to you? Since he is already talking to her, he continues by telling her that nobody forced him to jump and she tells him, "It's called peer pressure." He asks her if she knows about that from her "precious book" and we see a shot of her holding her bible in her lap. I guess this is in case we may have forgotten that Jamie takes God and religion very seriously. This is also where we learn that Jamie and Landon have known each other since kindergarten and this is probably the first time they've ever talked to each other.
|Walk me home;
I don't wanna go
all the way alone.
We see Landon at his next form of "punishment" when his friend Eric drops him off for play practice and he reminds him when it will be over so he can pick him up later. We get this bizarre comment from Eric where he says that they should do West Side Story so they can get that "nice, big booty-lookin' girl from Selena". Two things: first of all, why would Jennifer Lopez be in some random small town North Carolina high school musical? Huh? That doesn't even make sense. Also, wouldn't Jennifer Lopez already be a household name by now? Why is he referring to her as the "girl from Selena?" To be honest, I'm not really sure when this movie is supposed to take place. I assumed it was 2001 since the movie came out in early 20002, but I'm pretty sure people would've known her by then. We at least know it's after Selena came out, which was early 1997. Maybe I don't remember and J-Lo WASN'T super famous by then. (She definitely wasn't referred to as J-Lo yet, I'm pretty sure of that). After I looked up Adam Shankman's (the director) filmography, it makes sense that this is in here because he directed The Wedding Planner with Jennifer Lopez, which came out a year before this movie. So I guess that was a shoutout to her.
The school spring musical being put on isn't already an established play. Rather, it's an original piece of work written by a student called "Thornton's Way" and Jamie wrote the lyrics and music for all the songs which is quite ambitious of her. It "follows the rise and fall of Tommy "The Gun" Thornton in prohibition era New York" and is described as "a story of burning passions and blazing Tommy guns." I guess its supposed to be some early twentieth century gangster play. Everyone sits around in a circle and does a read through of the play, including Landon and he is absolutely terrible. The drama teacher even asks him, "Are you trying to be bad at this?" and he replies, "No, it just comes naturally." So how the hell he got cast as the lead, I'm not quite sure. I guess this was part of his punishment? Again, if I were one of the drama kids and wanted this role, I would have been majorly pissed! I guess we got that scene of him reminding Eric what time to pick him up to show us that Eric did NOT show back up to pick him up, so Landon asks Jamie if she can give him a ride home, which she does.
As they drive, she turns on the radio, and I swear to God, she's listening to herself. The singer sounds exactly like Mandy Moore...but it wasn't a song I recognized. The only songs I knew from this movie were "Cry", "Only Hope", and "Dare You to Move". I did look up the soundtrack list and Mandy Moore is listed as having a few other songs that I'm not familiar with, so maybe one of them was during this scene? But why is she listening to herself? Is that supposed to BE Mandy Moore? I don't think it's supposed to be Jamie - I'm pretty sure she would be much more popular than she is if people knew she was a recording artist! I don't know, it was really weird. Maybe it's not even Mandy Moore, but it just sounds like her. This is when we learn about Jamie's "To Do" list, which, is really her Bucket List. Things included on this list include spend a year in the peace corps, make a medical discovery, befriend someone she doesn't like (I think she sees the perfect opportunity for that in Landon), be in two places at once, and get a tattoo. I'm not sure how many items she has, but each one is listed and the lower the number, the more important the item. When Landon asks her what her number one is, she replies, "I'd tell you then I'd have to kill you" and I'm thinking, Wow, she must want to do something really illegal or something. But no, it's just personal. We'll find out about it later. Hint: it has something to do with the title of the movie. When they drive pass a bunch of his friends at a hangout, Landon slouches down in the street so they can't see him. What a tool.
There's three weeks until the musical and Landon is worried about memorizing his lines. He tries reading his lines with Eric, who tells him, "De Niro couldn't even make this work." Huh? I'm pretty sure this, a musical about mobsters, is up De Niro's alley. Okay, maybe not the musical part, but I would think the mobster part he would be quite familiar with. Of course maybe he's just saying how terrible the dialogue is. When Landon realizes that Eric or any of his other friends aren't going to be any help in the line reading department, he asks Jamies to help him with his lines. I should point out that Jamie is playing Alicia, the "mysterious club singer." So, yes, Landon and Jamie got the two leads in the musical. Contrived, much? Nah, I didn't think so either. Jamies tells him she will, on one condition. With a straight face, I swear to God, there's not even a crack of the smile to indicate she's joking, she tells him, "You have to promise you won't fall in love with me." Okay. Wow. This girl sure has a lot of unwarranted confidence. Look, I get why this line is in the movie...it will come back later. However, this is a TERRIBLE place to have her say it. Maybe have her say it when he DOES start having feelings for her and wants to date her. This just makes her look really...socially inept. Does she really think this boy is going to fall in love with her (at this moment?) Landon just kind of smirks at her and says, laughing, "That's not a problem." Which, honestly, would have been my reaction too. If somebody ever said that to me, I think my eyes would get stuck at the top of my head from rolling them so hard. Also, I would never say something so cheesy to anyone unless it was an obvious joke (and I would only say something like that if it were an obvious joke!)
That night, Landon is driving along and stops when he sees Jamie sneaking into a graveyard with a
telescope. For some reason, he feels the need to follow her and asks her what she's doing. She show him and tells him she wants to build a bigger telescope to view the comet, Hyakutake (yes, I looked it up, and yes, it is a real comet). Supposedly it's to make a reappearance that spring. They have a little bit of a heart to heart and Landon tells her, "There's too much shit in this world", to which she responds, "Without suffering there'd be no compassion." Jamie has agreed to help Landon with his lines after he asks her and they run lines together.
|I saw the crescent;
you saw the whole
of the moon.
They seem to have bonded, at least Jamie thinks so, so the next day at school when she sees Landon talking with his friends, she says hello to him and says, "I'll see you after school?" since they've made plans to go through their lines together. He totally snubs her and replies, "In your dreams" and his friends laugh like it's the funniest thing ever. This totally reminds me of that episode of The Wonder Years when Kevin has to be partners with this weird girl named Margaret Farquhar who he doesn't like, but once he gets to know her, he thinks she's pretty interesting, but he still can't get himself to hang out with her in public, so he tells her they can be "secret friends". Needless to say, that doesn't go over too well! Just like in this movie when Landon shows up at Jamie's after school and she shuts the door in his face. When she opens the door again, Landon tells her he wants to run lines together and she says, "Okay, but just not so anybody knows, right?" Landon figures they could surprise everyone with how good he gets. Jamie sarcastically says, "Like we could be secret friends?" and Landon, totally unable to read her, says, "Exactly! It's like you're reading my mind." She tells him, "Maybe you can read mine" and glares at him, then tells him she thought she saw something good in him, but was "very wrong". So yeah, you can probably see why that reminded me of that episode of The Wonder Years.
We next get a montage of the next couple weeks of Landon learning his lines (by himself) and rehearsing (by himself). But just so it's not scenes of that, also thrown into the montage is him looking through the yearbook and seeing that Jamie's ambition is "to witness a miracle" and a slow motion scene of them in the hallway eyeing each other as they pass each other and it is everything.
The first night of the play, everyone important to the movie has come to see it, including Landon's dad who he doesn't talk to. Eric is sleeping in the audience, which I don't blame him because the play looks pretty boring...until we get to the big musical number where Jamie sings "Only Hope". If I were in the audience, I would wonder why she wasn't a recording artist or writing songs for musicians because I would be thoroughly impressed that a seventeen-year-old wrote that song! Actually, Switchfoot wrote that song. I had no idea. And apparently it came out in 1999, but I had never heard it until I saw this movie. They do play the Switchfoot song later in the movie, but I like the Mandy Moore version better. She slays the song.
Before Jamie's character, Alicia, sings her big number, she's wearing a hooded cloak and she takes it off to reveal a blue dress that's showing a little more skin than what we're used to seeing Jamie wearing and her hair is done up in curls and she's gotten rid of those godforsaken bangs. Apparently they never had a dress rehearsal and this is the first time they've run the play on a stage with costumes because Landon is gobsmacked that - GASP!- Jamie is really, really pretty! Look, I understand they want this to be his first reaction to seeing her all dolled up, but in what world do you put on a play for the first time for an audience without doing a dress rehearsal? And then she sings and everybody is dead because she KILLS it. (Oops, probably shouldn't be making "dead" and "kill" jokes with this movie!) Landon tells her, "All I know is you're beautiful" and leans over and kisses her, which was not written in the script. We see reactions shots of Jamie's dad and Landon's ex, Belinda, and neither of them are very happy.
Now that Landon finds Jamie attractive, he wants to be with her and the nexts day at lunch he sits with her, not caring who sees them together and tells her that she "inspires" him. Now THIS would be the time for Jamie to tell him not to fall in love with her. Instead she tells him, "You don't know the first thing about being someones's friend" and he tells her, "I don't want to just be your friend" and when Jamie tells him, "You don't know what you want", he replies, "Neither do you, you're too scared somebody might actually want to be with you", which, I'm confused why he thinks this because he doesn't know her big secret yet. Yes, if he knew, I could understand that. He tells her it scares her because she wouldn't be able to hide behind her books or telescope of her faith and the real reason why she is scared is because she wants to be with him, too. A little presumptuous of us, hmm?
We know Landon is serious about Jamie because we get a scene of Eric telling Landon that it seems he doesn't have time for his "real" friends anymore and Landon tells him he's "sick and tired of doing the same shit all the time", to which Eric replies, "This girl has changed you and you don't even know it." Oh, I think he realizes it. He pretty much admits he's outgrown his old friends.
|I got a crush on you; I
hope you feel the
way that I do. I get a
rush when I'm with you.
|I wanna be with you.
If only for a night, to be the
one who's in your arms
to hold you tight.
Jamie does tell Landon that she loves him the night they go star gazing and he tells her he had a star named after her (another item on her list). Since she has professed her love to him, he once again asks what her number one is and she tells him it's to get married in the same church where her parents were married. It's also the same church where her mother grew up and I assume it's the same church now where her dad is a minister?
Being with Jamie has motivated Landon to write his own lists of things he wants to accomplish. He left it in the pocket of his pants and his mom found it when she was doing laundry. (Seriously, this senior in high school can't even do his own laundry?? Maybe his first item should be "Do my own damn laundry".) As Jamie, Landon has aimed high for his ambitions too: "examine a moon rock, go to college, get into medical school." Uh, when has Landon ever expressed interest in the medical field? That was a little baffling. He's embarrassed that his mom has found his list, but tells her that he can do it and that Jamie has faith in him and that "she makes me want to be different, better." It's actually very sweet.
One evening they're walking around the small town of Beaufort (I say small because it seems like they're always running into Landon's old friends like they do that night). Jamie seems particularly upset about something one night and runs into an alley. Landon asks her if she's worried about college applications and she tells him she's not applying to college. He thinks she must be taking a year off since she did say the peace corps was on her to do list, but she tells him he just assumed she was going to college. She tells him she's sick and he thinks she's talking about she doesn't feel good at that moment and offers to take her home. I can't fault him; I probably would have had the same thought. But no, it's much worse than that. She tells him she has had leukemia and two years ago she "stopped responding to treatment." She doesn't give how much time she has, but considering she feels it's not even worth applying to school, it's probably not very long, probably less than a year (and she will die in less than a year). Of course Landon is shell shocked by this and I feel bad for the guy. Here he's found this girl who brings out the best in him and he's totally in love with her and has just found out she doesn't have long to live and she's only eighteen years old. I mean, damn movie, are you trying to make me cry? He asks her why he didn't tell her and she replies, "The doctor said I should go on and live life normally as best I could." She didn't want anybody to be weird around her, especially him. She tells him she was getting along fine with everything and had accepted it, "and then you happened. I do not need a reason to be angry with God." I probably feel even worse for Jamie. Not only is her life cut considerably short and she's pretty much waiting to die, but she's found someone who loves her for who she is and she loves him back and she won't be able to live her life with him. Damn, movie, like are you seriously trying to make me cry?? Because you're doing a really good job!
In the middle of the night, Landon drives to his dad's house and knocks on the door until he answers. He asks him if he can help Jamie and his dad calmly tells him he's a cardiologist (this is the first time I'm learning that his dad is a doctor!) and doesn't know Jamie's case or history and would have to talk to her physicians. What he says totally makes sense and he didn't say he WOULDN'T help him, but Landon, who has a tempestuous relations with his dad, snaps, "Just forget it! I knew it!" and abruptly leaves. Dude, I know you're upset about your girlfriend, but maybe give you dad a chance to explain himself.
So I'm not exactly sure when Jamie was diagnosed with leukemia, we just know that treatment stopped working two years ago. I find it hard to believe that she lives in this small town where she's pretty much known all the kids she goes to school with since kindergarten and nobody knows about this. It seems something as big as that would be hard to keep in a small town. But after she tells Landon, word gets out she has cancer and Landon's old friends suddenly start being nice to him again since now they know that Jamie is dying. He does make amends with all of them after they offer their condolences and apologizes. Dean offers to help him with the surprise telescope he's been building for Jamie to see the Hyakutake comet. Belinda gives Landon pictures of the play (I guess she's a photographer for the school newspaper?) and apologizes about the first-grade level photoshopped pics.
The next time Landon talks to Jamie after she told him she was dying she asks him if she's scared and she replies, "To death", which he doesn't think is very funny. (I mean, it is a little bit). She tells him she's scared of not being with him and he tells her, "That will never happen".
|I'm craving for you;
I'm missing you like candy.
Jamie has a health scare and lands in the hospital. I must say for someone who is sick and is going to die in a few months, she looks absolutely glowing and healthy. I mean, they could have at least tried to make her look like she was on her deathbed! When Landon visits her (and he pretty much never leaves her side), Jamie gives him a journal that belonged to her mother that has quotes from her favorites books and famous people, and, being that it is a journal, her own thoughts. She tells him that maybe God has bigger plans for her than she had for herself and that he (Landon, not God) was sent to her to help her through all of this and she calls him her angel, awww. The thing that really got me was a few days later when she told Landon she was going home because his dad was paying for private home care and Landon goes to see his dad and hugs him and oh no, I think there's something in my eye right now...
Landon finishes his surprise telescope for her and they are both able to look at the comet and I'm sorry, but it is absolutely adorable how he's holding her hand throughout the whole thing and damn movie, why you gotta kill off 1/2 of this adorable couple? It just isn't fair!
Okay, so you remember how Jamie told Landon her number one on her bucket list was to get married in the same church as her parents? Well, this is where the title comes in. The Walk to Remember...is a walk down the aisle! Bet you didn't see that coming! (I didn't when I first saw this because I'm a moron). While looking through the telescope, Landon asks her to marry him and she says yes. Now I understand that he's doing this because he loves her and because this is the thing she wants more than anything, but this has to be a bit psychologically damaging to Landon. Not just because he's getting married at the ridiculously young age of eighteen (yeah, that is insanely young to get married), but because his wife will DIE in a few short months. You could say the Walk to Remember wasn't actually all that rememberable because the scene is very rushed. In fact after this scene, is when we get the wedding scene where the Switchfoot version of "Only Hope" is played. Jamie's dad is the officiant of the wedding. I don't know how I'd feel about my dad being the officiant of my wedding, but I guess if I were dying, it would be a nice touch. As he reads the "Love is patient and kind" vows, Jamie and Landon mouth "I love to you" to each other, and oops, got something else stuck in my eye!
In a voiceover, Landon tells us they "had a perfect summer with more love than lots of people know in a
lifetime", then she died. The movie closes with an epilogue where it's four years later and Landon, who made it to med school (would love to know how...guess he was smarter (book smarter) than he let on) is visiting Jamie's dad to return the book that Jamie gave him. He tells him, "I'm sorry she never got her miracle", because, as you may remember, that was her yearbook's ambition. Jamie's dad tells him, "She did. It was you." Okay, I'm not going to lie: after the scene of him reading that in the yearbook is when we see him learning his lines and I thought he wanted the miracle she witnesses was to be him learning his lines by himself. I guess this is a little better.
|It was there that I
realize that forever was
in your eyes, the
moment I saw you cry
As he leaves, Landon tells us in voiceover about Jamie: "Her love is like the wind; I can't see it, but I can feel it" - a callback to when Jamie compared her faith being like the wind for that reason. Cue "Cry" playing over the credits. I remember when that song came out and I freakin' love that song.
Yes, this is truly a manipulative, schlocky movie that would normally make the dark-hearted cynic in me roll my eyes, but the two leads make this movie work and it's one of the better Nicholas Sparks adaptations (although, to be fair I haven't see that many...probably because most of them don't look that good!)