A new Nicholas Sparks masterpiece is upon us as sensitive Marine Zac Efron comes back to the good old US of A to find the love of his life at the local dog shelter
Author Nicholas Sparks and producer Denise Di Noyi are at it again with their latest installation of a dank, predictability-saturated love story: The Lucky One. This new movie release is sure to attract hordes or teenage girls; Zac Efron has buffed up his physique and softened his heart to play a melancholic veteran of the marines who returns from the perils of the Middle East to find the love of his life at a local dog shelter.
Director Scott Hicks’ new movie is unabashed about concocting a sickly saccharine, unimaginative aesthetic, meant to distract the viewer from the fact that the plot is unbearably simple and cliché. He misses the mark. Every scene in this snoozer is as conventional as American apple pie and weighted down with clumsiness while simultaneously jerking the viewer from haphazard shot to haphazard shot of the many simple-minded perspectives. There is really no rhyme or reason to the cinematography other than randomness and this isn’t avant-garde randomness, this is accidental randomness—the worst kind.
Sgt. Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) escapes a warzone shootout with nauseating heroics and upon finding a “Keep Safe”-inscripted picture of a beautiful young woman on the ground, in an act that should educate girls everywhere on the necessity of restraining orders, he decides to track her down. How boring.
Like all good love sleuths (or perhaps stalker is the more appropriate term here) Logan is able to easily find the object of his desire, Beth (Taylor Schilling). Beth is living on the Louisiana countryside raising her young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) and working at a dog kennel. Beth lives with her grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner) in an exquisite southern manor (of course). Even though Beth has her reservations about the mysterious, serious Logan, Ellie as the all-knowing grandmother archetype hires him. Beth’s uneasiness about Logan is perhaps the only genuine thing in the film—who wouldn’t worry about some guy showing up with a picture of your dead brother. But wise old grandma Ellie is there to save Nicholas Sparks’ narrative and encourage Beth to draw closer to Logan. Her son needs a father figure after all, given that his real father, Keith (Jay Ferguson), is a first class SOB. Again we see the wit and depth of Sparks’ story shine through when we learn that Logan not only knows how to build Ben’s confidence by deliberately losing to him at chess, he also can accompany him on the piano at the church violin recital, all while Keith can only threaten and mock Ben, Logan and Beth.
But we need Keith; without him, there would be no tension to even mildly distract us from the predestined, star-crossed relationship of Logan and Beth. Like Logan, the audience is just biding their time, waiting for the fated lovers to finally get their victory kiss. Of course, Keith must first be eliminated in grandiose, biblical proportions, which speaks the value system Sparks’ story operates out of: old fashioned and Christian. It may appeal to a certain section of the population, but anyone else trying to view this cotton candy tale will find it bland, unfamiliar and strange.
As is often the case with a Nicholas Sparks love story, the characters remain static and vapid, never developing any authentic emotions or displaying any sympathetic interiority. Efron’s stoic performance demonstrates that as a thespian he has the emotional range of a teaspoon, while Schilling seems to be allergic to any other mode of being but utterly restricted as if by straightjacket. Those of us who know the sweaty, humid realities of Louisiana will find the beautifully, comfortably bronzed scenery disingenuous as the characters. The music provides no hope either: all the pop songs accompanying the 101 minute film are as thematically off the mark as Mark Isham’s score.