By Lisa Nault
Nicholas Sparks: a name that is synonymous with chick flicks. He is the author of countless romantic-drama novels including “The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember,” and “Dear John.” Many of his books have been adapted into motion pictures and have been extremely successful. His latest book-to-film creation goes by the name of “The Longest Ride.”
Before I go on, I want to point out that I am not a big fan of Sparks’ films. They all contain similar scenes involving a heterosexual couple who are from different worlds and, despite their love, those worlds put a strain on their relationship. Sometimes the couple ends up together, sometimes they do not, and on more than one occasion, the death of a loved one occurs. While I find the similarities and romantic clichés in his film adaptions to be tedious, many other people do not.
Directed by George Tillman Jr., “The Longest Ride” stars Britt Robertson as Sophia, a sorority girl who intends to enter the art industry, and Scott Eastwood as Luke, a rather successful bull-rider. Both actors are ridiculously beautiful, which is a common trait in a Sparks film.
Overall, their performances are enjoyable and help make the characters more likeable. Robertson is charismatic and has a charm about her that makes Sophia realistic. When she cries the audience feels her pain, and when she is excited about something the viewers cannot help but smile along with her.
Eastwood, whose father is in fact Clint Eastwood, for the curious, also does a good job in this film. While there is one scene in which the character’s attitude abruptly changes to cause conflict, it is a writing flaw rather than poor acting. The determination of the character is written all over Eastwood’s face in each scene where he is riding a bull.
However, when the character is being romantic, Eastwood conveys nervousness and love, which is perfect because his relationship with Sophia is just developing.
Other notable actors in the film are Alan Alda, who plays Ira, an old man Sophia and Luke rescue from a car accident; Jack Huston who plays young Ira; and Oona Chaplin, who plays young Ruth, Ida’s true love. Both actors who played Ira were fantastic. Alda perfectly captured a man whose life had been a roller coaster ride. He is nostalgic and is generally happy with his life, but at the same time, he knows that his life has not been complete and there are things he wished he could have changed.
Huston would not even have to say anything to convey the emotional depth of his character. The context of the scene plus the pain in his eyes is able to silence the theater. And when he does deliver his lines he feels authentic. Chaplin, on the other hand, does not. Her accent is terrible and irritating. There is little subtlety to her performance, which is especially noticeable when she shares scenes with Huston. All Chaplin does in the film is smile and cry (sometimes at the same time).
The story itself is fine. As I mentioned earlier, it is formulaic, but that does not necessarily make it bad. There are a few unique scenes that are creative and enjoyable that makes the film better than other Sparks productions. My favorite scene, which I will not spoil, is at the end of the movie. It is the deus ex machina moment in the plot that makes the audience cheer and laugh at how perfect it is.
The story revolves mostly around the lives of a college girl and a bull rider, so naturally there are scenes where bull riding occurs. These scenes are unsettling. The look in the bull’s eyes, the amount of noise they make, and the sheer intensity of the bulls causes the viewers to squirm in their seats. Bull riding is barbaric, and having the lead participate in this type of cruelty to animals makes it hard to see him as the perfect good guy that the film is trying to make him out to be. Every scene where there is bull riding, I find myself concerned more about the animals than the characters’ development.
“The Longest Ride” is not the worst movie ever made, but it is also not the best. If you like Nicholas Sparks’ writing and the film adaptations of his novels, then you will like this movie. The characters are okay and the majority of the actors do a good job with what they are working with. For some people, the movie will make them cry, but for others it will do nothing. If you like other films based on Sparks’ books, you will like “The Longest Ride,” but if you do not, then this is one movie you can feel confident in missing.