Art enthusiasts and bull-riders rejoice! You’re somehow compatible.
Though Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) live right by one another, they’ve never met and honestly, why would they? They’re both complete opposites with him being a handsome, daring bull-rider, and her, a college student from New Jersey looking to get her foot in the art world. But somehow, due to a chance meeting and date, they somehow realize that they’re perfect for one another, even if there are the occasional problems that ensue when you’re young and still trying to make sense of the world, as well as who you want to spend it with. Both of them eventually learn of all of life’s joys and hardships through an aging man by the name of Ira (Alan Alda), who they stumble upon after he has a car-accident. What Ira tells them about, is the story of when he was younger (Jack Huston), and met the love of his life, Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Through his memories of his sometimes tragic past, Luke and Sophia grow closer and realize that they may be the ones the other needs to help keep them happy and always willing to be their best selves.
With Nicholas Sparks movies, you know exactly what you’re going to get. That means, there’s not much of a point in discussing what doesn’t work in them – if only because hardly anything does. They are as contrived, cliched, and saccharine as you could possibly get, and while some may not be as terrible as others, there’s no denying the fact that they’re really not worth checking out. Like, at all.
However, in order to wade through all the crap, it’s up to us, the regular, common folk who doesn’t fall for these types of movies, to figure out which ones are slightly more commendable above the rest. The Notebook of course comes to mind as the one and only Sparks movie that’s worth watching (if only for Baby Goose himself), but other than that, it’s all pretty much the same old junk. Two love-sick people meet, fall in love, have some sort of conflict, and wouldn’t you know it? By the end of the story, somebody either has cancer, has been dead for the whole time we’ve been watching them, or is a total and complete, murderous psycho. It’s the formula that, no matter how many times we see it, never seems to die away an everlasting, painful death.
But for better, and especially for worse, the Longest Ride takes that formula and does something s relatively interesting with it.
“Relatively”, being the keyword here, people. So please, bear with me.
What the Longest Ride has going for it that most of the other saptastic Sparks pieces lack, is that the central couple actually seems to have sparks of chemistry between each other. Both Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson, despite seeming like the sort of cutesy, overly attractive types that you see in these roles, actually do put some effort into how their characters bond with one another, even if it’s all incredibly calculated and predicted from beginning to end. You can’t tell me that once Eastwood helps up Robertson from a mechanical bull mishap, that she’s instantly going to fall right in love with him, as she stares deep and hard into his eyes, getting lost in the maze that is his hunky exterior.
Sure, we’ve all seen this done before, but what Robertson, Eastwood, and director George Tillman, Jr. admittedly do, is that they light some sort of fire between these two characters that it makes whatever happen to them next, feel like it has a certain kind of believability. You believe that Eastwood’s narrow-headed character would think the Expressionism art Robertson so loves and desires, is stupid and not deep at all, just like you’d believe that Robertson wants Eastwood to stop bull-riding, aka, the only source of employment that he’s able to live well off of. I’m not saying that where their story goes, it’s all understandable and therefore, not corny as all hell – because it totally is. I’m just saying that, considering what I’ve seen some of these on-screen couples get into with these movies, it works a bit better here.
That’s not to dismiss that there’s also a whole other relationship going on here that, unsurprisingly, isn’t all that interesting and just adds way more material onto this already hefty material than there definitely needs to be.
Which does sound a bit crazy, considering that the other relationship portrayed here involves not just Oona Chaplin or Jack Huston, but also Alan Alda, because they’re all fine in everything that they do; it’s just that here, it feels like they’re wasted on a lame script that doesn’t deserve them. According to the movie, Alda is supposed to be playing a 90-year-old-something Jewish man (even though he doesn’t look a day over 60, even despite all of the machinery of make-up and hair), who, at one point in his life, looked like Jack Huston. Now, I don’t know about any of you, but I don’t think either one look like the other in any sort of fashion; even though Huston has this sort of timeless look and feel to him that makes it easier for him to blend into any decade that he’s placed in, playing a younger-version of Alda doesn’t seem to fit so well with him. Chaplin’s fine in her role as the love of Huston/Alda’s character life, but she even feels too one-note, as she’s constantly sunny, happy and charming, no matter what sort of curve-balls get thrown into her way.
And then, there’s the whole conceit that the plot never gets tired of using and it’s as tiring done the fourth time, than it is for the ninth, or tenth time.
Because the movie is telling two stories at once, in order to go back and forth between the two and make it easier for the audience to understand what is happening, the movie uses this narration from Alda that’s supposed to be his diary/journal entries, chronicling his life with Chaplin. Problem is, every entry literally feels like it was written two seconds after the two had a date, and is actually less of a diary of one’s feelings or thoughts, as much as they’re just Alda telling us what happened with his character and this other one. It’s so obvious and unnecessary, that once you get to the two-hour mark, you’ll start to wish that the movie just took out that whole angle and stuck small and simple with Robertson and Eastwood’s story. Because at least with them, you would have had something sweet to fall back on when the silly moments came around.
On a side note, though, I think it’s worth pointing out the fact that literally three, out of the four main cast-members in this movie are in some way related to other actresses or actors. Eastwood is clearly the son of Clint; Huston is the grandson of John, as well as nephew of Anjelica and Danny; and Chaplin, well, is the daughter of Geraldine and grand-daughter of, well, I’m not even going to say it it’s so obvious. If anything, this proves that Hollywood, in case you haven’t been able to tell by now, is as nepotistic as you have probably heard. People get on Will Smith’s case for pushing Jaden and Willow to the front of each and everything he does, but just look here! That’s not to say that none of these actors have talents worth looking at and enough to cast in your movie – it’s just that maybe, quite possibly, there’s other actors out there more willing for these kinds of roles, that are maybe less-known or less connected than these ones here.
Just a food for thought, I guess. Because, before you know it, whatever spawn Brett Ratner produces, will soon be taking over Hollywood and demanding that we see their over-budgeted messes, no matter how many people actually dislike them.
Can’t say you’ve been fore-warned.
Consensus: Despite a lovely chemistry between Robertson and Eastwood that makes it slightly less painful to watch, the Longest Ride is still like mostly every other Nicholas Sparks movie in that it’s stupid, contrived and way too overlong.
4.5 / 10