Saturday, April 11, 2015

Movie Review #240: "The Longest Ride" (2015)

Movie"The Longest Ride"
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 2 hours, 19 minutes
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Sophia (Britt Robertson) is a college senior in North Carolina and is preparing for a career in the art industry. She has a post-graduate internship lined up at a prestigious Manhattan gallery. One evening, her sorority sisters convince her to join them at a bull riding competition. It's at this competition where Sophia meets a professional bull rider named Luke (Scott Eastwood). Luke and Sophia have a few flirtatious exchanges and after she finally calls him back, Luke asks Sophia out on a date. On the way home from their date, they happen across a car that veered off the road, hit a tree and started burning. Luke rescues the driver, Ira Levinson (Alan Alda/Jack Huston), who seemed more concerned about a box in the car than his own life. Sophia retrieves the box for him and comes to find it contains many letters he wrote to the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin/Naomi Eckhaus), which Sophia reads to Ira while he recovers in the hospital. Meanwhile, Luke and Sophia struggle with where their blossoming relationship is going and if it can work out between them, considering their future paths seem so different. 

We are people who think tolerance is necessary in any facet in life. It's important for our survival, our thriving and our existence. In life, you should be able to find what you like and what you don't like, and if you don't like something, you can avoid it, but be someone who is open-minded enough to say, "well, at least I tried." This is where BigJ and I find ourselves when it comes to Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaptations. Honestly, we have tried so hard, ladies and gentlemen. And with the exception of "The Notebook," the rest of these films have pretty much all been flops.

Based on the trailer, "The Longest Ride" looked like it would be exactly that: a long, arduous, cheesy rehashing of Sparks' other works, almost like a really bad, slow moving roller coaster you want to get off but can't because it's your duty as a critic to review these movies. To our surprise, it's not as bad as we thought it would be, but that still doesn't make it great. It's your pretty typical Sparks affair. As with almost all of his works, it takes place in a small North Carolina town and features two young lovers who have the odds stacked against them and try to make it work regardless. And just like "The Notebook," this particular film is two separate stories broken up into present day and flashbacks and are then interwoven by fate, chance, and of course, love. *PUKE*

Luke, played by relative newcomer Scott Eastwood (yes, of THAT Eastwood family, and you'll know if you see him squint) and Sophia, played by relative newcomer in Britt Robertson, meet by chance when he drops his hat in front of her after exerting his machismo in the bull riding ring. It's obvious from the start that bull riding is his first love, as well as his profession. He coyly tells her to keep the hat because it looks better on her. What. A. Line. From this first encounter, we knew we were in for a cheese-fest. Sophia, of course, thinks he's a hunka-hunka-burnin'-bullrider, but doesn't want to get too attached because she's moving to New York for an internship in 2 months. Ahh, Sparks, you predictable son of a bitch, you. After their first date where Luke idiotically assumes Sophia and her sorority sisters sit around all day in their undies and have pillow fights (gag me with a spoon), fate, once again, intervenes, and Luke rescues Ira from his burning, crashed car. After following him to the hospital, Sophia stays, but Luke leaves, because, you know, women are nurturers. ~*uh oh!~* Ira and Sophia get closer as she reads him the letters he wrote to his beloved Ruth, beginning in the 1940's before WWII, and after. All the while, Luke and Sophia get closer and more intimate. Literally! They have sex in his barnyard shower and we see her nipple in a PG-13 movie! Now, we know nipples get shown in PG-13 movies all the time, just look at "Titanic," for example, but it was a definite observation that, during a sexytimes part of a PG-13 movie, there was nudity. Could the MPAA be getting more and more lax on their enforcement of such things? Who knows, but anyways, moving on! As with all Sparks adaptations, they argue from time to time, they get caught in the rain, they sacrifice, they make grand romantic gestures, you know, all the cliché parts from the romantic drama playbook that has been perpetuated for eons.

Much like a few other Nicholas Sparks adaptations, we are dealing with said juxtaposition of the two individual stories which eventually merge towards the end of the film. The story of Sophia and Luke is the far less compelling of the two. While Scott Eastwood will certainly be eye-candy for the 13-25, scratch that, from the 13-95 crowd, he is certainly not his father when it comes to his acting abilities, at least not yet, and certainly not here, and we hope he doesn't start talking to empty chairs anytime soon. The dialogue between the two seems quite forced, and though this might be Sparks' fault, we have a hunch it wouldn't have flowed any better if it were acted by someone else. Also, it doesn't help that the dialogue as a whole is cheesy as hell. Britt Robertson is the slightly better of the two and is able to at least emote to show how much she loves this dude. Otherwise, we as an audience never get fully engaged or convinced that these two people are falling deeply, passionately in love with one another. It's obvious Eastwood's Luke is the stereotypical cowboy with all the down-home southern politeness, jock-arranging and Ford drivin', Bud drinkin' that comes along with it, but this doesn't mean he shouldn't try to smile or laugh or cry every once in a while. Instead of a deep love, it feels more like an uber-smokin' hot couple having a fling-a-ding-ding. Where this movie really excels is its casting of the younger Ruth and Ira, played respectively by Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston. Their love is palpable, believable and convincing, and even as they grow older and grow farther apart, we still found ourselves rooting for them against all odds. This part of the film is slowly and steadily built up over years and decades and wars and strife, and they face real issues and give up dreams to be together. It's their lifetime commitment and sacrifice that really draws us in. Their commitment to one another is the stuff of successful romance movies, and maybe, if not a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, it would have had a chance to shine on its own elsewhere.

Overall, while "The Longest Ride" is quite formulaic and run-of-the-mill, but it still has some touching moments, mostly provided by the love between Huston's Ira and Chaplin's Ruth. Their chemistry is really excellent, though we can't say the same for their present-day counterparts Eastwood and Robertson. Though the ending is utterly ridiculous in its own right, it's not as bad as many of the other Sparks endings from his past works, so we see this as a small victory for us when it comes to movie reviewing. Pretty well paced and containing just enough schmaltz to bring a tear to your eye, people who live for Nicholas Sparks adaptations will most likely love this movie, but for the average moviegoer, we say wait until the DVD for this one. It's not necessary to see it in the theater, unless you really, really want to see slow motion, high resolution camera shots of a bull snotting all over the place while it's being ridden. Seriously, we will probably never see that amount of snot in a movie ever again. Best scene ever!

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 29%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.
One year ago, we were watching: "Uncle Buck"

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