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Overall Rating
2.29

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 14.29%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad85.71%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 1 rating


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Longest Ride, The
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by Jaycie

"Not complete bull, but not by much."
2 stars

The Longest Ride is a deeply frustrating movie. You might think that's because it's a Nicholas Sparks movie, and as such is inevitably riddled with his own clichés, which . . . OK, yes, it is. But director George Tillman, Jr. and screenwriter Craig Bolotin have subverted just enough small Sparksworld conventions to give its latest film adaptation a shred of likability. Whereas the six adaptations made between now and The Notebook were irredeemable crap in every sense, The Longest Ride could have been saved - but, of course, was not.

Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) is a bull riding champion hoping to, quite literally, get back in the saddle after a nigh-crippling injury the year before. Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is a Wake Forest art major living for an upcoming internship in New York. (I wondered what an art major was doing at Wake Forest myself, but they have a reasonable excuse for this.) At a bull riding event to which her sorority sisters have dragged her - because that's how North Carolina college girls get their entertainment, I guess - the two have a meet-puke; go on a lakeside picnic that, mercifully, does not include a canoe ride; and save elderly Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), plus his box of old love letters, from a burning car wreck. Because Sophia is rather nosy, this leads us to flashbacks of a secondary but much more interesting love story between a younger Ira (Jack Huston) and his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). And, of course, Sophia and Luke use lessons from Ira and Ruth's tale to overcome their own differences, which don't start to weigh on them until weeks afterward.

The movie gets many things right. You can tell why the men in the story love their women for once: Both Sophia and Ruth are smart and witty in addition to being beautiful, while the stock Sparks heroine has about as much personality as an unbuttered dinner roll. Sophia and Luke make like a sorority girl and a cowboy and have sex with each other – without passionately declaring their everlasting love first! And they have (implied) sexual histories, too! (Also, the sex scenes are kind of hot.) In addition, cinematographer David Tattersall shows glimpses of an actual style, giving us some excellent POV shots during the bull riding scenes and refusing to coat the North Carolina wilderness in goopy lens flare. Unfortunately, some of his overhead shots make that same wilderness look like the Brazilian rainforest, and the YouTube video of Luke's injury is shot with far too much sophistication, but he mostly gets it right. No disposable current boyfriend/fiancé/husband. No overbearing rich parents. No slow-dancing by the fire. No looking at the stars. No overwrought, Hallmark-like dialogue. It's enormously refreshing.

But those are all pretty small things to get right, and The Longest Ride gets much bigger things wrong. Sophia and Luke's main problem is that she's going to New York soon and they oppose each other's respective passions, although she's legitimately worried about his safety while he openly scorns the abstract art she loves. Their situation becomes even less sympathetic when juxtaposed with Ira and Ruth's difficulties, which have much greater implications. The switch between both storylines is always jarring, and only one of them is compelling enough. They kept the urban/rural divide trope, the wise old person trope, the rain trope, the hospital trope and the North Carolina trope. And then, of course, there's the ending, which is so improbably perfect for all involved parties that if 20 girls and a few hapless boyfriends hadn't been in the theater with me, I would have thrown my shoe and more than a few epithets at the screen.

None of the performances provoked such rage, although Alda is completely wasted here; all he is given to do is look sad and drop the occasional nugget of wisdom. Robertson won't be nominated for any Academy Awards in the foreseeable future, but she's a perfectly good popcorn movie actress, giving Sophia a charm that makes "This girl is different" ring slightly true. The main appeal of the Son of Clint is that he looks like a hot cowboy – and this movie favors the female gaze, which I appreciate immensely – but he does fine. He and Robertson seem to enjoy each other's company for reasons beyond the script requiring them to enjoy each other's company. Huston and Chaplin are the best of the cast, the latter especially as she gives off an exuberance you would never expect from a woman last seen getting repeatedly stabbed in the uterus.

Speaking personally, the Sophia-Luke story didn't work for me because I had been in a somewhat similar situation once and handled it, I like to think, in a much smarter way. I met a cute guy from a small town who grew up on a farm. We hooked up. I found out I was moving to a bigger city for work a month from then. We hooked up a couple more times before I left. I thought there could be a possibility of a long-distance relationship, but it didn't happen. We're both in relationships with other people now. We're still friends. But I didn't make the decisions Sophia makes that get her life far too wrapped up in Luke's far too quickly, despite being well aware of their inevitable parting, his disdain for her profession and his reckless attitude toward his own health. Girls who remember how season 1 of The Hills ended know exactly what I'm talking about.

If their story was a bit more comparable to Ira and Ruth's, The Longest Ride would have flowed much more effectively, and its characters would have come off much better. Nonetheless, this is one of the more competent Sparks films, at least if you share my incredibly sharp eye for incompetence. But don't expect him to make it a habit.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=26979&reviewer=432
originally posted: 05/05/15 09:34:21
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User Comments

7/19/15 Charles Tatum Innocuous fluff, you'll marvel at Scott's resemblance to Dad 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  10-Apr-2015 (PG-13)
  DVD: 14-Jul-2015

UK
  19-Jun-2015 (12A)

Australia
  09-Apr-2015
  DVD: 14-Jul-2015




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