Message In A Bottle

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Details At A Glance

Category Drama Theatrical Trailer(s) Yes, 1 - 1.78:1 16x9 enhanced, Dolby Digital 2.0 
Rating Other Trailer(s) None
Year Released 1999 Commentary Tracks Yes, 1 - Luis Mandoki (Director) & Denise Di Novi (Producer)
Running Time 126:01 minutes Other Extras Deleted Scenes - 3
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (75:54)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Movie
Region 2,4 Director Luis Mandoki

Warner Home Video
Starring Kevin Costner
Robin Wright Penn
John Savage
Illeana Douglas
Robbie Coltrane
Paul Newman
Case Snapper
RRP $34.95 Music Gabriel Yared

Pan & Scan/Full Frame None MPEG None
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Dolby Digital 5.1
16x9 Enhancement Yes Soundtrack Languages English (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Italian (Dolby Digital 5.1)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono)
Theatrical Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
Macrovision ? Smoking Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Italian for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement Yes, mildly
Action In or After Credits No

Plot Synopsis

    IN SHORT: Like all Kevin Costner movies, this is much better the second time around.

    Message In A Bottle has a fascinating premise. A lonely divorcee, Theresa (Robin Wright Penn) finds a bottle on the beach with a message in it. The message is a poignant outpouring of feelings for a woman identified as Catherine. Theresa, a researcher for the Chicago Tribune, is so moved by the contents of the message that she has the letter published, leading to a huge response, including two more letters, both in the same poignant style.

    This prompts Theresa to search for and find the writer of the letters, Garret (Kevin Costner). It turns out that Catherine is Garret's recently deceased wife, and the letters were written after her death - he is still very much the grieving widower. Hey, come to think of it, this sounds awfully like the plot of Sleepless In Seattle, only this is no romantic comedy.

    Theresa and Garret fall in love, but Garret has a very hard time letting go of the past.

    The first time I watched this movie, I thought it was incredibly slow and dull. The second time through, I enjoyed it considerably more. Nonetheless, I found the chemistry between Kevin Costner and Robin Wright Penn to be totally shallow and unbelievable. Without this believable chemistry, the movie fails as a drama.

    There is a continuity fault in the scene commencing at 62:19 involving the car door.

Transfer Quality


    The transfer is presented at an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. It is 16x9 enhanced.

    The transfer is very sharp and very clear at all times, save for the deliberately foggy shots. Shadow detail is marvellous, and is amongst the best that I have seen committed to film, with exquisite fine details revealed in the darker portions of the image. There was no low level noise.

    The colours were superlative, with magnificent hues of all colours on offer, and all perfectly rendered. The cinematography of this movie is exceptional and stunning, both in close-up and in panoramic shots.

    No MPEG artefacts were seen. Film-to-video artefacts consisted of more aliasing than I would have liked to see in a current generation transfer, but nothing that was particularly severe. The 16x9 enhancement would have helped quite significantly with the reduction in this artefact, and I shudder to think of the aliasing that would be visible if this disc is viewed without 16x9 enhancement. There are a number of shots of particular note for this artefact, basically all comprising slow pans downwards over scenes with a lot of fine detail. There is also some aliasing in shots of venetian blinds. Film artefacts were exceedingly rare and not bothersome at all.

    This disc is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed at 75:54, between Chapters 20 & 21. The layer change is minimally disruptive.


    There are three audio tracks on this DVD; an English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, an Italian Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, and an English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0 mono). I listened to the default English Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack and to the English Audio Commentary track.

    Dialogue was always perfectly clear and easy to understand.

    There were no audio sync problems with this disc whatsoever.

    The musical score was by Gabriel Yared. Overall, I felt that this musical score was a missed opportunity in that it was superb when it was actually present, but there were too many periods of musical silence for my liking during this movie.

     The surround channels were used subtly but effectively to create ambience.

    The .1 channel had minimal use except towards the end of the movie.


    There are a good selection of extras on this disc.


    The menu is 16x9 enhanced but otherwise unremarkable.

Theatrical Trailer

Deleted Scenes

    One extended scene and two deleted scenes are presented. They can be viewed either with or without Director's commentary. According to the Director, the extended scene works better than the final cut of the movie - I agree with him on this point.

Audio Commentary - Luis Mandoki (Director) & Denise Di Novi (Producer)

    This is a commentary track which predominantely features Luis Mandoki, the Director, discussing the film on a scene-by-scene basis. This is one of the best commentary tracks that I have listened to, and provides a wealth of information on the filmmaking process. A few comments by Denise Di Novi are included as well.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Overall, there is no particular reason to prefer one version over the other.


    Message In A Bottle is fundamentally flawed. It is too slow, and the chemistry between the lead characters is unconvincing. The disc itself, however, is excellent.

    The video quality is very good except for some annoying aliasing.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are excellent.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Michael Demtschyna
20th October 1999

Review Equipment
DVD Pioneer DV-505, using S-Video output
Display Loewe Art-95 95cm direct view CRT in 16:9 mode, via the S-Video input. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Denon AVD-2000 Dolby Digital AddOn Decoder, used as a standalone processor. Calibrated with the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Amplification 2 x EA Playmaster 100W per channel stereo amplifiers for Left, Right, Left Rear and Right Rear; Philips 360 50W per channel stereo amplifier for Centre and Subwoofer
Speakers Philips S2000 speakers for Left, Right; Polk Audio CS-100 Centre Speaker; Apex AS-123 speakers for Left Rear and Right Rear; Yamaha B100-115SE subwoofer