Review: The Longest Ride
PLOT: A college gal (Britt Robertson) bound for a lofty internship in NYC falls in love with a North Carolina bull rider (Scott Eastwood). With their careers tearing them apart, both find inspiration in the stories an old man (Alan Alda) they rescued from a car wreck tells them about the love of his life.
REVIEW: Another year, another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. It seems that no matter how treacly or lame the adaptations of his work have proven, theyre all but guaranteed to score at the box office on date night. The latest, THE LONGEST RIDE is actually okay as far as Sparks movies go, thanks mainly to some bright casting, although it falls far short of THE NOTEBOOK, which remains the gold standard for movies based on the wildly popular writers work.
Perhaps wanting another NOTEBOOK (and which studio/author wouldnt?) THE LONGEST RIDE hits a lot of the same beats that one did, telling two simultaneous love stories, with Aldas character remembering his younger days, where hes played by BOARDWALK EMPIREs Jack Huston, as he coped with a war injury that threatened to lose him the love of his life, played by GAME OF THRONES Oona Chaplin. While thats only the B-story, the heightened romanticism of the pre and post-war era makes the love story a little easier to swallow. While Chaplin is saddled with a cumbersome Viennese accent, she and Huston actually do have chemistry, and their part of the story is surprisingly affecting with their relationship challenged in creative ways for a Sparks story. While the timeline seems a bit off (Aldas character would have to be well over a hundred, but he still drives a car and gets around pretty well), this part of the movie goes down pretty smoothly.
Sadly, the A-story, as bull rider Scott Eastwood falls for arty Robertson, is as shallow and idealized as any of Sparks other recent big-screen flicks. Eastwood, whos the spitting image of his father circa-Rawhide, is too idealized. Hes a non-cussing, ultra-romantic type who lives in kind of woodsy-ranch loft that looks ripped out of the pages of Martha Stewart Living. Its annoying that hes not allowed to have any character flaws whatsoever, except that hes hell-bent on risking his life riding bulls because it allows him to keep the family ranch open.
Robertsons plot isnt necessarily any better, with her bookish character immediately going gaga over the sight of a bull-riding Eastwood, with everything else falling by the wayside, including school and work. Realistic? No but then again Eastwood and Robertson are a fresh-faced, attractive pair, although its hard to invest in Eastwoods bull riding dilemma the same way we can in Huston having to go to war.
THE LONGEST RIDE also goes on way too long, running an oppressive 130 minutes, before finally reaching a ridiculous conclusion where typical for Sparks material gain assures a happily ever after ending. Still, for what it is, THE LONGEST RIDE isnt too painful. Director George Tillman Jr seems to know exactly what kind of movie hes making, so he keeps it relatively light, although the non-stop pop country soundtrack gets annoying. Everyone involved is likely going to go on to bigger things, with Robertson about to make a splash in TOMORROWLAND, while Hustons got the BEN-HUR remake. Eastwood, while bland here (although the women in the audience went gaga over him) could get a lot better as he gets a little more weathered, and for a first-time lead hes not bad at all. Its a slick romantic programmer, and given the sobs at the screening I attended, it will likely please the die-hard romantic audience that will flock to see this on the weekend.
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