The Longest Ride. Directed by George Tillman Jr. Starring Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood.
In springtime, a young man's fancy turns to love while a movie mogul's passions lean toward the latest Nicholas Sparks movie, and how to make an easy buck.
Films based on the author's novels have raked in more than $803 million worldwide. The Longest Ride opens today, the tenth Sparks adaptation since 1999 to mosey into theatres. Sparks, both prolific and predictable, has key elements that appeal to the North American romcom audience.
It all starts with the poster. (OK, probably not true.) Get an impossibly good-looking
white couple to stand in front of the sun. Then get in nice and close and make the guy grab the gal's neck, but in a good way. Finis! Thus was borne The Notebook, The Best of Me, Safe Haven, The Lucky One and Nights in Rodanthe, to name a few. (Rachel McAdams broke rank, couldn't wait for sunshine, and grabbed Ryan Gosling in the poster for The Notebook. But who wouldn't?) Throw in a terrible disease like leukemia (afflicting Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember) or cancer (Greg Kinnear in The Last Song), or force of nature (freak mudslide in Nights In Rodanthe, a fire in Safe Haven, a drowning in Message In A Bottle). No locusts, yet.
No Sparks film is complete without an idyllic, small-town locale, usually coastal North Carolina because the beaches are pristine and the industry incentives - until recently - were awesome. True to formula, the heroine of the latest NSF (Nicholas Sparks Film) is a Wake Forest college senior named Sophia (Britt Robertson) whose high-powered art career plans are thrown into a tizzy after she attends a bull-riding competition and meets a cowboy named Luke (Scott Eastwood). Because why look at boring old art all day when you can study the beauty of Luke's pecs, which can seemingly pop his shirts open all by themselves?
A multi-generational tale is always a bonus in an NSF. The McAdams-Gosling pairing may have been the best romantic union in Sparks history (some would say film history, period), but it is the relationship between James Garner and a sadly demented Gena Rowlands that necessitates no less than five hankies per viewing. The Longest Ride features such a bonus love story, with a 90-something Alan Alda lying on his deathbed after a car accident, and comforted by flashback reminiscences with his dead wife. Ah, classic Sparks!
Let's just hope that the pairing between young Robertson and son-of-Clint approaches a thing of McAdams-Gosling beauty and not, say, the weirdness of Taylor Schilling (pre Orange is the New Black) and a baby-faced Zac Efron (The Lucky One). Or worse, the downright non-chemistry between Miley Cyrus (pre twerking) and Liam Hemsworth, despite the fact that they were a couple in real life.
Attractive lovers plagued by class/societal differences, tested by trauma but ballasted by pretty locales and some incredible makingout-in-the-rain scenes. It's a tried-and-true formula that works, and given the right romantic pairing, works wonders. And admit it, you love it.