Review: The Lucky One
PLOT: Logan (Zac Efron)- a good-hearted marine, returns home after serving in Iraq- bent on tracking down a mysterious woman whose photo became his lucky charm through the dangerous final months of his last tour. The woman, Beth (Taylor Schilling), whose photo belonged to her dead brother, turns out to be a lonely, divorced mother- contending with an abusive ex-husband, and a precocious son. Anyone wanna bet these two fall in love?
REVIEW: Based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks. There. That should tell you everything you need to know about THE LUCKY ONE. Coming from the same saccharine source as THE NOTEBOOK, DEAR JOHN, and THE LAST SONG, THE LUCKY ONE is yet another treacly romance, with Efron obviously hoping this will do the same thing for him that Sparks novels did for Ryan Gosling and Channing Tatum. As such, he plays another one of Sparks' wounded heroes, who, more often than not are soft-hearted veterans, that instantly fall in love with the chaste heroine- with Schilling standing in for Rachel McAdams and Amanda Seyfried.
THE LUCKY ONE will obviously find a receptive audience in the legions of people that make films like these successful, but suffice to say I'm not one of them. THE NOTEBOOK wasn't bad, but that was mostly due to the appeal of Gosling and McAdams, but every other Sparks adaptation has been an ordeal, and this is yet another one. I don't object to gooey sentimentality in romance. That would be like objecting to a shoot-out in an action film. No, what I hate about Sparks' stories are the one-dimensional characters, that are about as authentic as the vampires in TWILIGHT.
To that effect, Efron's Logan practically walks around throughout the film with a halo over his head. Early on, the filmmakers try to suggest that Logan's suffering from post-traumatic stress, but that's utterly ignored after the first ten minutes. The early scenes, where he's supposed to be winning over Beth are hilarious in that her initial resistance to his charms is preposterous. He's hunky, strong, sensitive to the point that he tears up while playing the piano (beautifully- natch), studies philosophy, thumbs through MOBY DICK in his spare time, is a master chess-player- but not above throwing the occasional game to help build her son's self-esteem. Oh, and animals love him. Heck, he's so saintly that in the last act I was almost expecting him to raise a character that dies from the dead.
I don't want to give Efron too hard a time here, as he does his best with what he's given, but he's got to be careful not to do too many of these movies. Sure, THE NOTEBOOK put Gosling on the map, but since then he's never done anything that's been even remotely similar to that film, and even Tatum seems to be ditching those types of films in favour of edgier projects. As for Schilling (of the already infamous ATLAS SHRUGGED PART 1), like Efron, she has an absolutely paper-thin part to play- so it's pretty hard to gauge her skill as an actress through her work here.
As one-dimensional as Schilling and Efron are permitted to be, the one that fares the worst is the antagonist- Beth's ex-husband, turned sheriff's deputy, who- as played by Jay R. Ferguson, is so evil it's a miracle they didn't give him a moustache to twirl. There's absolutely no shading here, with everyone being so manifestly good or bad, that there's no grey. THE LUCKY ONE ends up being so melodramatic that at times it almost plays like a parody of itself. Some of the scenes are so corny that audience members started to snicker at times, especially in the early Iraq scenes- when one of Efron's comrades has a big speech about how he can't wait to get home- only to immediately get killed, which cues some slow-motion emoting courtesy of Efron.
THE LUCKY ONE is really an easy film to make fun of, as are all of the films based on Sparks' books, but the fact remains that if DEAR JOHN and THE NOTEBOOK are films you liked, this is probably right up your alley. For me, this is one to avoid. There's nothing wrong with a good romance (many of my favourite films fall into that category) – but for me, this doesn't even come close to being one.
|Extra Tidbit:||Instead of going on a date to see THE LUCKY ONE this weekend, stay in and watch SOMEWHERE IN TIME. Then you will in fact be THE LUCKY ONE.|