Official Plot Summary: 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 City’s 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.
Review: There’s an easy formula to making a halfway decent romantic film nowadays. Take beautiful actors, shoot them in a beautiful location, and bonus points if you can shoot the film just as beautifully. With the Nicholas Sparks brand usually there’s some sort of death or tragedy thrown in as a plot device for good effect. That is what mostly happens in The Longest Ride. Adapting Sparks tenth novel, this tear-jerker succeeds more often than it fails, if only it were more ambitious or a little more focused.
Props to Cinematographer David Tattersall whose career hasn’t had much distinguished work outside the prolific Star Wars prequels does a good job here taking in the scenery and filming in the bull-ride sequences. He gets experimental with various interesting angles and techniques, with brief handheld shots and a wonderful slow motion climax. I wish there could have been more to the world of competitive bull-riding which opens the film and loses centre focus later on in the film in order to accommodate plot convergences binding the two love stories. The scenery is also nicely taken in nicely. Part of why we go to the movies is for escapism and its nice to see North Carolina presented beautifully on-screen in open lands as part of something I hadn’t seen before. It leaves it up for the actors to match them.
Scott Eastwood (yes that one) in his first major big screen role underacts to mostly good effect and manages cautiously not to break the film’s immersion. It’s hard to say yet whether he’s a good actor or not but you can say that about anybody nowadays. He definitely looks the part and is a scarily-accurate rendering of his father down to the stare, the way he grins and squints without even trying. It’s funny, not only to see on-film the way women swoon for him but also in the theatre and on camera doing the promotional rounds (in my research check out this interview). His looks, genetics and attitude do most of the heavy lifting for him.
I’m encountering an interesting kind of screen chemistry this decade. Starting fittingly with the film Friends With Benefits you see two good-looking individuals and you get the sense that they would be just that. Believable as “friends with benefits” but not as a couple. They seem to have a good enough relationship to translate. Eastwood (single) ever the playboy expresses joy in such steamy encounters.
Brit Robertson (who I’m anxiously awaiting in the upcoming Tomorrowland) is pretty in an interesting way. She has yummy, gorgeous green eyes. Her character, having seen her previously with real life boyfriend Dylan O’Brien in the movie The First Time shows sparks of personality and an energy that’s difficult to pin down. It doesn’t help she’s playing a stock character, but its enough that she’s elevated her sex appeal beyond ‘pretty generic white girl’ status. The same unfortunately cannot be said for her co-star Melissa Benoist.
To get to the actual movie itself, it starts off interestingly enough and keeps you entertained throughout its 2-hour plus running time, enough for me to only think briefly about the time. The most interesting change of hands that occurs in the film however is the level of interest from the couple in the A-love story to the couple in the B-love story. After the interesting meet cute and requisite date, first kiss then love-making there really isn’t anywhere further for Luke and Sophia to go. The audience isn’t really given a reason to care whether they stay together or not and I honestly thought by the second act that they were better off chasing their respective careers since they’ve pretty much peaked already. The 1940’s storyline which starts out dull and uncreative like most love stories gets more and more interesting as the couples take on more challenges. A long length of time passes as the couple Ira and Ruth go through changes and hardships that Luke and Sophia pale in comparison to, and slightly older experienced actors Jack Huston (Boardwalk Empire) and Oona Chaplin (Game of Thrones) are better emotionally equipped to handle the material. Thankfully the B-plot ends up rescuing the A plot in the end in a reasonably clever way that could in some way be said about older generations making sacrifices for younger generations that pale in comparison but it doesn’t quite register.
Drifting Sidenotes: Alan Alda gets the major laugh in the film just by his grinning expression of the word ‘friend’. His comedic skills despite a watered-down role continue to be effervescent.
I would not have thought my first proper 2015 movie would be from a trailer I saw attached to Into The Woods but I got an invite to an advanced screening sneak and took it. I also spent way longer than expected on this review. As my new years resolution of avoiding trailers starts to pay off (the trailer for this film was released on Dec. 22nd) I at least get more excited going into these films with less and less info.
Overall: The movie provides a nice getaway movie going experience shooting in beautiful locations with beautiful actors, beautifully serving up a slightly touching if predictable story. Date night anyone?