A Nicholas Sparks adaptation done right, with all the flaws and annoyances of a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.
The newest adaptation of a sappy romantic Nicholas Sparks novel, The Longest Ride, is exactly that — sappy and romantic, and formulaic with a preposterous twist added in for preposterous effect. The story about a young beautiful art lover (Britt Robertson, Dan in Real Life) who falls in love with a young beautiful bull rider (Scott Eastwood, Fury) is the surface romance, featuring lines like “I can’t just quit. It’s all I know”, etc. The more dramatic underlying romance is the story told by an injured old man (Alan Alda, M.A.S.H.), about his courtship and marriage to the love of his life (Oona Chaplin, Game of Thrones) and the sacrifices they made for each other. Combine the two together in a layered emotional cheese fest and you have the makings of a classic Sparks story which the movie studio can use to excitedly make a film trailer that states “Two Stories Separated by Time / Connected by Fate.” (see trailer below)
But, it’s the actors that make this movie slightly better than expected. The performances are, across the board, better than most Sparks adaptation performances. Alan Alda gives a strong effort as Ira, an old man who’s nearing the end of his life after a car wreck and remembers his glory days with his wife, Ruth, and imparts elderly wisdom upon Sophia (Britt Robertson). Young Ruth and Ira, played by Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire), provide the film’s most engaging storyline, introducing themes of religion, family, art, and post-WWII values into their quest for happiness and everlasting love. That isn’t to say that the love story between Sophia and Luke (Scott Eastwood) is subpar, but it really lacks the emotional heft of the former. On the plus side, Robertson and Eastwood have decent chemistry, with moments of genuinely charming humor and sexy love-making, that blows most recent romantic endeavors of a similar nature out of the water, including The Best of Me and Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s actually unfortunate that Britt Robertson has a resume chock-full of bad to mediocre titles, since she has the chops to carry the load of more complex young female roles currently dominated by the likes of Jennifer Lawrence and Emma Stone. Eastwood, on the other hand, requires some more experience since The Longest Ride‘s role of Luke Collins may have just called for “rippling biceps and a young Michael Fassbender smile”.
Anyone going to The Longest Ride expecting anything more, or less, than a sappy melodrama will be sorely disappointed. If you want a good cry, you may very well get your wish. The Longest Ride has some very sad moments so bring tissues. And if you want a good movie about bull riding, then this may be a good choice for you (because it’s the only one out right now, I think). And, of course, if you’re a huge Nicholas Sparks fan then you probably don’t care what I think because you’re gonna see it anyway.
The Longest Ride opens in theaters today, April 10th.