- on Friday, 10 April 2015 14:26
- by Frank Wilkins
The worlds of professional bull riding, modern art, World War II, and tough love become entangled in a sappy mess in The Longest Ride, the next Nicholas Sparks romantic drama novel to get the big screen treatment.
With nine previous adaptations under his belt, the proliferative author certainly doesn’t have a problem attracting the attention of Hollywood producers willing to throw bags of money to option his work. And why wouldn’t they? Those movies – led by Message in a Bottle and The Notebook – have gone on to gross nearly $1 billion worldwide.
But despite all the monetary success and generous adoration from millions of fans, Sparks still hasn’t managed to crack the code of pleasing those fickle film critics. Not that it matters, however, as his adaptations have always proven to be critic-proof anyway. And despite what you read here – or anywhere else, for that matter – The Longest Ride, will go on to gross millions in spite of its glacial pacing, clunky structure, and lack of energy. And yes, I realize I’m looking for the wrong things in a film like this, but an egregious lack of romantic spark between a film’s two leads should spell doom. But with The Longest Ride, it most certainly won’t.
The Longest Ride tells two love stories simultaneously. The main, set in modern-day North Carolina stars Scott Eastwood (yes, the son of that Eastwood) as Luke, a rider on the Professional Bull Riding circuit, and Britt Robertson as Sophia, a bright young girl studying art at Wake Forest University. The two meet – in one of the most eye-rollingly forced methods – and fall in love despite the obvious complications that arise from their city-girl meets country-boy differences.
As the couple returns home from a date one evening, they happen upon a burning car on the side of the road and rescue a semi-conscious man named Ira (Alan Alda) and his prized box of letters that he carries around for some unexplained reason. Turns out the letters introduce us to the second love story thread about Ira shipping off to World War II and leaving his stateside sweetheart, Ruth (Oona Chaplin – yes, that Chaplin) behind. As Sophia reads the letters she learns that Ira returned from the war with injuries that rendered him incapable of fathering children. But Ruth loved her husband anyway and chose to stay with him in spite of her desire for many children.
Naturally, Sophia sees herself in a similar dilemma to Ruth as she nears graduation and will soon face the decision of either staying with the man she loves or taking a prestigious art museum internship in Manhattan. Of course the idea being conveyed is one of sacrifice and the tough decisions we’re forced to make for one another. But the film’s main problem is with the relationship between Luke and Sophia as directed by George Tillman, Jr. Both actors do an admirable job of reading their lines, from an adapted script by Craig Bolotin, and even show occasional twinges of a bright future, but we never buy into their relationship. The chemistry just isn’t there. Plus, their dilemma and modern-day storyline is far less interesting than that of Ira and Ruth. Chaplin – the granddaughter of Charlie – shows a great vibrancy and is just fun to watch on the screen. Her energy and pizzazz bring a much-needed spark to a story that bogs down way too often in its 2-hour-plus runtime.
Adding to Luke and Sophia’s dilemma is Luke’s stubborn insistence on continuing his bull riding career despite warnings from the doctor that another injury could render him unable to walk. But, naturally, Luke doesn’t get it because he’s a bull rider and “that’s what bull riders do.” So, their dilemma continues until one or the other is forced to finally give in or until that ridiculously contrived twist ending is revealed, whicver comes first.
As a love story, The Longest Ride is a rather dull and lifeless one only made bearable by the flashbacks – despite their awkward handling. Most will see past the film’s glaring shortcomings however, as their attention will be taken by the pretty faces and tight bodies of its two main leads who take a PG-13 rating to the limits. Speaking of limits: what’s more difficult than staying on a 2000-pound bull for a full 8 seconds? Staying awake during The Longest Ride for 139 minutes.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action.
Runtime: 139 mins
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Writer: Craig Bolotin
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda
Genre: Romance | Drama
Tagline: The Longest Ride
Memorable Movie Quote: "It's pretty simple. Just hang on for 8 seconds."
Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Official Site: http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-longest-ride
Release Date: April 10, 2015
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date: No details available.
Synopsis: Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York Citys art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, The Longest Ride explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.
No details available.