Movie Review: The Longest Ride is too sweet and too Sparksian

Movie Review: The Longest Ride is too sweet and too Sparksian
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Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a journalism graduate from Sheridan College. He specializes in Arts & Entertainment reporting, feature writing and film reviews.Twitter: @ChiefcoOne

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Cowboys, pretentious art students, wartime love letters and a contrived romantic narrative that bashes at the heart, screaming for tears — The Longest Ride is this year’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

The Longest Ride

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Overall Rating:
Opens: April 10, 2015
Running time: 139 minutes
Genre: Drama/Romance

And so it goes, the usual Sparks recipe.

Scott Eastwood stars as Luke Collins, a tall, handsome bull rider from North Carolina. He meets a slightly younger, hopeful New Jersey college girl, Sophia (Britt Robertson). Luke’s back from an injury that nearly ended his career; blame the four legged, meaty antagonist, a mean mugged bull named Rango. Sophia is set to leave for New York to begin work in a prestigious art gallery. Luke is looking for another shot at Rango.

Love hits, their plans take a turn as fast as their emotions and everything is cheerful and cute, until the pair encounter a burning vehicle off a country road. Inside, near death, is Ira (Alan Alda), an elderly man who screams for his saviours to salvage his “box” from the inferno. Ira is saved. Sophia waits with him at the hospital.

She opens the box.

Inside — letters and photos outlining a decades long romance between a younger Ira —played by Boardwalk Empire star Jack Huston — and his beloved wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Sophia befriends old Ira and visits him often, seeking advice as she has romantic tribulations of her own.

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

We enter a drowsy melodramatic cliché of awkward love scenes, bad country music and bizarre strings of conversation between characters that sound fabricated, as if none of the actors believe anything they’re saying. We have moments of greatness from Scott Eastwood, unmistakably the son of Clint. He acts everyone under the table, especially Robertson, who will be starring alongside George Clooney this summer in Tomorrowland. Lets hope she brings her A-game for that potential box office scorcher.

Both actors deserve better.

But what could Eastwood do? With source material that’s obviously streamlined for a core audience of Beliebers and fleeting high school sweethearts, he might even become a star. Director George Tillman, Jr. (Barbershop, Notorious) has directed effective films before, but obviously takes a subdued role here, following the Sparks formula. His visceral scenes of bull riding stand out, bringing raw energy to a story so overcooked.

The Longest Ride attempts to capture the same Notebook magic. Sparks hit the heartstrings of just about every North American woman with that Gosling vehicle; here he tries again, introducing a dual romance. One set in our generation’s troubled, freethinking world, the other in the war-torn decades that preceded it. The intertwining tales share two similarities. They both involve art collectors, and they’re both boring.

 The Longest Ride opened last night and is showing locally at Film.Ca.


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