Director: George Tillman Jr. (The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete, Faster, Notorious)
Writer: Craig Bolotin, Nicholas Sparks (novel)
Producers: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Theresa Park, Nicholas Sparks
Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Alan Alda
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Running time: 139 min.
Here’s the deal: you’ve seen this movie before. It’s not really like The Notebook but it’s as close to it as we’ve come in the adaptations of Nicholas Sparks novels since. Truth: Sparks knows how to weave a good, if predictable, romantic yarn and The Longest Ride is no different.
Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood are the lovely couple this time around. She, Sophia, is a New Jersey daughter of immigrants studying art at the local college in one of the Carolinas while he, Luke, is a good ‘ole southern boy who spends his days professionally riding bulls. The pair meet at one of his events, there’s a spark and eventually they end up together though not before each is forced to confront their personal problems and put everything on the line for love. The end. Happily ever after. And yes, it is happily ever after. Sparks and Disney are the few bastions of happy endings left. Though Sparks’ usually come at the cost of a few extra tissues.
If, like me, you missed the memo, The Longest Ride also stars Alan Alda as Ira, a crotchety old man that is befriended by Sophia. He shares the story of the hardships and happiness of his relationship with his wife, a relationship he refers to as “the longest ride” and his story prompts Sophia to give Luke another go because, as we all know, true love is hard to find and can sometimes be difficult. I’m sure you can figure out how Ira’s story ends too but seriously, if your complaint about this movie is its predictability, you really need to get out more.
There’s one reason and one reason only to see The Longest Ride: a good crying session with your girlfriends. If you can convince your other half to sit with you through this sopping pile of over emoting and heartbreak, you’re obviously living in the happy endings world Sparks inhabits. All power to you. For the rest of us, this is a great opportunity to have a few drinks and sit in a dark room with our BFFs, carefully wiping away tears before fully collapsing into ugly crying.
Robertson, who until now has appeared mostly in CW shows and teen centric movie titles (watching Tomorrowland, in which she’s clearing playing a young girl, after having seen so much of her in this is going to be interesting), makes the leap to playing the grown up with relative success. She’s charming and beautiful and has a bright eyed demeanour that suits the character. Eastwood is, by far, one of the best embodiments of a Sparks male lead; a mix of gruffness and vulnerability. He’s certainly easy on the eyes but there’s more to him than just good looks and though the movie doesn’t give him all that much to work with, there’s an underlying intelligence to Eastwood that comes through. So much of The Longest Ride could, and occasionally does, end in melodrama but both Robertson and Eastwood, as well as Jack Huston and Oona Chaplin respectively, give the characters an emotional depth that carries through the movie’s cheesier moments.
It’s not rocket science but achieving this level of effective melodrama is an art form that Sparks has mastered over the course of hundreds of books and though not all of the adaptations have been hits, most have faired fairly well in the translation. The Longest Ride is the best of the bunch in some time.
And be sure to take extra tissue. I haven’t cried this much at one of these since The Notebook.
The Longest Ride opens Friday, April 10.