Review: The Lucky One

Directed by: Scott Hicks
Written by:Will Fetters
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Adam LeFevre
Released: April 19, 2012
Grade: C-

The Lucky One
I thought of it as being like a Hallmark telemovie.  A fellow critic described it as the movie equivalent of a Mills & Boon novel.  Both metaphors should give you a fairly good idea as to what to expect with The Lucky One, the latest adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel.

Sparks wouldn’t be short of a dollar.  He keeps churning out popular books and Hollywood keeps knocking on his front door and asking to buy the cinematic rights.  Since 1999, seven of his novels have reached the big screen – Message In A Bottle, A Walk To Remember, The Notebook, Nights In Rodanthe, Dear John, The Last Song and now The Lucky One.

It brings back memories of our infatuation with crime writer John Grisham in the 1990s.  You always knew what to expect from Grisham (a twisting thriller with a hero who overcomes many obstacles to succeed in the end) but it didn’t stop us from buying his books and seeing his films.  People liked his style.

As for Nicholas Sparks, he seems intent on crowning himself “king” of the romantic drama genre.  His movie adaptations have always involved two likeable characters who seem perfect for each other but tragedy does its best to keep them apart.  I wouldn’t describe myself as a huge fan of Sparks but I admit that the healthy box-office of his previous films proves that a substantial audience does exist.

This leads me to the obvious conclusion that some will like The Lucky One.  Unfortunately, I do not belong in this category.  I found the film to be one of the silliest romantic dramas that I’ve seen for a while.  This is through no fault of stars Zac Efron (High School Musical) and newcomer Taylor Schilling.  Both have talent and you can see they’re trying their best to look like a couple who belong together.

The problem is that this story is so contrived, so unrealistic.  It begins with scenes of U.S. Marine Logan Thibault (Efron) fighting in Iraq.  He narrowly escapes a bomb blast and in the process, he finds a picture of a beautiful woman that appears to have been lost by another soldier.  He keeps it as a good luck charm and it keeps him safe for the remainder of his tour of duty.

He returns to his home in United States as a broken man.  He’s having trouble slipping back into reality and cannot forget the atrocities he witnessed in Iraq.  Looking to cleanse his mind, Logan goes in search of the mysterious woman in the photo and it leads him to a small town in North Carolina.  He is finally able to put a name to the face – Beth Clayton (Schilling).

Logan isn’t up front about his past.  If he was, there wouldn’t be movie, would there?  He doesn’t say anything about the photo and instead, accepts a job working for Beth as a dog walker.  It’s a convenient way for Logan to get close and find out about her background before going in too deep.

It doesn’t take long for the sparks to fly and so the time has come to flick the switch and throw in a few complications.  Aside from Logan’s “hidden past”, Beth also has problems.  Her obsessive ex-husband (Ferguson) doesn’t like seeing Beth with a new guy and is determined to intervene.  I should also mention that (1) he’s a police officer, (2) he’s the son of the popular mayor, and (3) he’s an over-the-top schmuck.  All of these factors will make life very difficult for Beth and Logan.

There were a few moments midway through the film where I was almost drawn into the story… but any chance of leaving the cinema with positive thoughts was destroyed by the ridiculous, somewhat distasteful ending.  It’s rushed and doesn’t fit with everything in the lead up.

I’ve long been a supporter of director Scott Hicks (Shine, Snow Falling On Cedars) but this is his weakest film to date.  More time needed to be spent exploring these characters as opposed to showing us picturesque landscapes to the backdrop of songs preaching about love and sunshine.  No thanks.