The Longest Ride(2015)
- RatedPG13 /GenreDrama, Romance
Here we go again.
The king of sappy romance is back.
Yes, we’re talking about writer Nicholas Sparks, who whips up another piece of fiction from the schmaltz factory, for those seeking cheap sobs and cheesy melodrama.
‘The Longest Ride’ is the latest among his book-to-film adaptations, which have included 'The Notebook', 'Message in a Bottle', 'A Walk to Remember', 'Nights in Rodanthe' and 'Dear John'.
And why change the recipe, right? There’s the prerequisite star-crossed lovers (must be a good-looking pair), a summer fling, maybe a hint of wartime tension, a couple of accidents, a cranky old person with a story to tell, and a life-changing decision – all set in an idyllic countryside environment. And you have what it takes to sell tickets… and packs of tissues.
‘The Notebook’ grossed US$115 million (S$156 million) worldwide, a handsome return for its US$29 million budget; ‘Dear John’ also rang up $US115 million globally and ‘The Lucky One', which reportedly cost just US$25 million to make, fetched nearly US$99 million worldwide.
Sparks knows what works, and every movie puts just a slight twist on the formula.
Britt Robertson plays a college art-major who falls for a rodeo cowboy (Scott Eastwood) in 'The Longest Ride
Like most of the movies based on his works, ‘The Longest Ride’ is a picture-perfect project suffused with that signature buttery glow. Directed by George Tillman Jr, the movie is hampered only by a lumbering screenplay from Craig Bolotin.
Scott Eastwood (son of Clint) plays Luke, a rising rodeo star who goes back on the saddle after suffering serious injuries the year before.
He catches the eye of Sophia (Britt Robertson), a city girl and art-history major attending a rodeo competition.
Sparks fly – pun very much intended – and they’re off on a first date: a romantic candlelit dinner by the lake followed by an impromptu stop by the road – not for some hanky-panky, but so that Luke can rescue an old man named Ira (Alan Alda), who had an accident.
Sophia helps as well, saving a box of letters before the old man's car burst into flames.
She then begins a friendship with Ira, whose letters tell of his romance with wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie), a Viennese immigrant who arrived in America at the onset of World War II. And so the lovers' story is told, served up with secrets, modern art, and a bull named Rango.
Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood
The relationships of the young and old couples run parallel, but one theme rings through it all: that “love requires sacrifice”.
Robertson counts herself among Hollywood royalty here: Eastwood, Chaplin and Jack Huston (grandson of John) who plays the younger Ira.
As striking as she is, Robertson’s Sophia is underplayed as the lead female character, while the lion’s share of screen time goes to the young Eastwood.
What the actor lacks in talent, he more than makes up for it with his swoon-worthy looks.
Perhaps the more interesting arc is Ira and Ruth’s story as it plays out in sepia-toned flashbacks. There, we learn about the couple’s desire for family and their love for art.
Chaplin and Huston give strong, natural performances here, but the material is undeniably trite and hackneyed.
‘The Longest Ride’ tries to recreate the magic of ‘The Notebook’, which is now the gold standard for the romance genre, and fails.
It somehow lacks the over-the-top, rich romantic fantasy that was evident in the 2004 feature.
And if you want to see that genuinely moving romance based on a Sparks’ novel, you may just have to watch it by video-on-demand.
‘The Longest Ride’ opens 9 April 2015