I have only myself to blame for what I am about to see. I could easily blame the theater and Hollywood in general for not putting out anything good this week, but it is not their fault I chose a profession that requires I watch movies. In a situation where I have no interest in the mainstream films coming out, I will see an Indie movie. However, nothing is playing at my local venue and the only mainstream film available is a Nicholas Sparks (NS) movie.
I like to rely upon other critics to see bad movies for me. I suppose it is quite sadistic to save myself the humiliation of watching a Tyler Perry movie and watch others do it as a source of comedy. I have cited the Cinema Snob crew as one of my frequent alternatives to watching bad films. Their reaction upon seeing a movie they all knew was terrible is priceless, if not a little over-reactive.
However, at the prospect of seeing an NS movie, despite having a partner of the opposite sex to share the humiliation, I must apologize to Team Snob for deriving pleasure from their suffering. Long have I enjoyed the pain that inspired me to become a critic and only now do I realize the absolute dread of having to see something you know is awful. I am sorry.
Outside of what I know from word of mouth, I have no experience with NS movies. I have seen bits and pieces of The Notebook and Dear John, but in preparation for The Longest Ride, I watched the trailers of his previous films to get an idea of what they are probably like. Call me biased and lazy for going off promotional material for the sake of analysis, but when you consider the films in question, can you blame me?
From what I could extrapolate, a typical NS movie is a sappy romantic tragedy about two people, from radically different worlds, coming together and falling in love. Usually the male in the situation is a blue-collar type that catches the eye of the often rich, upper class female whenever he works with his shirt off. The tragedy results from either circumstance, fate, societal or class related, or one of the two people are keeping a secret that they never tell the other because the movie would end too quickly. Regardless of outcome, they overcome their problems and unite in some tangible, permanent fashion toward the end.
That is the basic set-up for all NS movies. They do not hide the fact most are the same because despite the painful, tedious, and vapid monotony, they make money. I understand there is strong, albeit stupid fan base that enjoys these movies, but at what point does a good thing become a cold marketing scheme that takes advantage of ignorant moviegoers? Film is a business, but when you exchange goodwill and originality for economics, you sacrifice art, and Nicholas Sparks is not in any way, shape, or form an artist. Is The Longest Ride another annual cash grab or has it done something different to break the mold?
When can a film be considered torture? Is it when you sit for 45 minutes and realize there is still another hour and 15 to go? Or when your hear nothing but expository dialog, from stupid characters, in stupid situations orchestrated for the sole purpose of drama, in a world where you can ruin your life, but everything is okay because of the most retarded conveniences since Star Trek: Insurrection and Amazing Spider-Man 2 combined?
Though not complete torture, Longest Ride is petty garbage trying to capitalize on the delusions of mass audiences. To that end, it is insulting, taking advantage of people that cannot see gaping flawless that reek of decay and bitter contempt. The film pulls the wool over their eyes with deceptive romanticism, drama for drama’s sake, and characters not allowed to be people. If you like forced sentimentality and banal drama, you have not the mental capacity to realize you are being made fun of.
Nicholas Sparks, you should be ashamed of yourself.
The story follows Sophia, played by Britt Robertson, a successful art student in North Carolina. After going to a rodeo with her sorority sisters, she meets Luke, played by Scott Eastwood, an up-and-coming rider. The two begin a light romance that is hampered by Sophia’s interest in pursuing a career in New York and Luke’s want to earn a championship title at the risk of his life.
Every part of Longest Ride is NS 101. You have the two lovers from opposite cultures, conflicting goals that ultimately lead to drama, and a good helping of stupidity and convenience to tie everything up in a nice bow. I understand the need for romanticism, but I am not dumb enough to disregard the fact a lot of the problems the characters encounter could have been solved with a conversation over the GODDAMN PHONE!
I was yelling at the screen every time they did something avoidable, had the two “lovers” actually communicated. Sophia destroys her future for Luke, when they could have opted for a long distance relationship. She ends a high profile internship after he almost dies. But when she breaks the news, Luke is dumbfounded as I was the moment it happened. He understood she wanted a life in contrast to his country ways and was totally fine with it. But because Sophia is written with brain damage, she forgot she could have gone to New York and called to check on him to make sure he was recovering. And after all of that trite foolishness, SHE STILL BREAKS UP WITH HIM!
This happens more than once. Logic is thrown out the door in favor of drama that makes shōjo anime make sense.
Luke’s mother appears just to berate him for being in the rodeo, when his winnings seem to be their only source of income. It is implied her husband was killed riding and that is why she wants Luke to stop, before we are told he died from a heart attack. If that is the case, why is this leathery tart complaining? She should shut her mouth and be thankful her only son is bringing in enough money for her to sit around and mope.
On Sophia and Luke’s first date, they appear to get along fine until she reveals she leaves for New York in two months and does not want any distractions. Luke obliges, even though they could have gone steady and started a long distance relationship after the move. Furthermore, why bother with a relationship and opt for straight sex instead? In her situation, with a guy like Luke, I would use up everyday within that limited timespan. Who cares about going steady if you have grand plans for a future that does not involve a partner? Use him, abuse him, and lose him.
Other minor problems persist throughout, but not to the severity of those above. Dialog is all exposition, leaving no room for the audience to figure out what is going on. The movie is so lazy it lacks the will to dole out information in a natural manner. The laziness infests the actors as well. In several scenes they turn to camera to read their lines like news anchors. That may not be the case, but that is how it looked to me. They must have been as reluctant as I while participating in the production.
Shockingly enough, about half of Longest Ride is actually good. In parallel to the main narrative, Ira, played by Alan Alda, an old man rescued by Luke after a car accident, tells the story of his late wife Ruth, played by Oona Chaplin, in the form of flashbacks to the ‘40s. Their story is similar to Sophia and Luke’s, but better in every way. All of the convenience and stupidity is nonexistent because the story is put together with a sense of sincerity. The characters behave like sensible human beings, thus the drama occurs in a natural manner. For me, what makes it worthwhile is Jack Huston plays Young Ira, also know as Richard-mother-fucking-Harrow. Who is Richard Harrow?
This is Richard Harrow: https://youtu.be/YYHxOdqepl8
Do not see The Longest Ride. It is not worth anything to anyone. The good half is not worth the whole other hour one must endure to see it. If you want a better romantic film, with a similar theme of sacrifice, that feels genuine, watch Shaun of the Dead. Do not give Nicholas Sparks your money.