Evan Slead ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant TV Editor
It isn’t a new year until a new Nicholas Sparks film hits theaters. For all of those “romance meets campy melodrama” fans, the 2015 iteration titled The Longest Ride is here to impress. Grab a pair of cowboy boots and brush up on the gentleman’s guide to wooing a dixie chick because his film has plenty of both. Director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food and Men of Honor) was chosen to bring this latest adaptation to the screen with the frontrunner stars played byScott Eastwood and Britt Robertson. While the movie doesn’t add much to the romance genre, it manages to give a fairly interesting plot with variations on the storytelling devices used. However, because of this, there are points of the film that feel sloppy and make the ride feel much longer than desired.
Luke Collins (Eastwood) is a young, hunky, and sweeter than pie bull rider that has had his share of danger due to his competitive lifestyle. The opening of the film shows one such event where the diabolical bull named Rango (played by Rango the bull) pitches Luke from his back, placing Luke in a ten-day coma that almost ends his life. Fast-forward to springtime where the tenacious Sophia Danko (Robertson) is forced by her sorority sister to attend a bull riding competition clad in cowboy boots and daisy dukes. Luke is back in the saddle and ready to ride to the top of the charts when he crosses paths with Sophia.
Entrusting Sophia with his beloved black cowboy hat, Luke sets forth a love affair with her that puts both of their worlds into perspective. He a bull rider with a closet full of chunky belt buckles, and she a studious art aficionado with an accessory line exclusively supplied by Hershel Co. To make matters more complicated, on their first date, Luke and Sophia come across a burning car where a man has passed out behind the wheel. Saving his life, the couple comes to know him as Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) who is a man trying to hold onto his past love Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Their shared love stories intertwine and mingle throughout the film to bring together one theme of love’s unending power. Or, it tries to do this at least.
The most interesting scenes in the film come from the flashbacks provided by Ira’s letters or spoken stories of his time with Ruth. The film becomes part period piece and does a successful job at making the past feel relevant and needed for the story. Specifically the actress that plays Ruth, Oona Chaplin, brings a brevity and genuine charisma that makes the more melodramatic scenes bearable. The difficult part is that when the movie switches between the past love story and the current it feels like a drastic switch.
While the relationship between Sophia and Luke has its interesting moments, it feels extremely predictable compared to the turmoil of war and family building that Ira and Ruth endure. The chemistry between both couples works fairly well, but at times, Sophia and Luke create steam that could either be created from sensual lovemaking, or just tasty BBQ. There’s not a consistent tone, which leaves certain scenes with an air of confusion. The supporting cast works fairly well with that mainly falling on Luke’s mother Kate (Lolita Davidovich, aka not Connie Britton) as she tries to keep her son from throwing away his life to the bulls.
Stacked up against the other Nicholas Sparks projects, The Longest Ride does not introduce anything groundbreaking. It delivers an okay film with some good moments and will be a date movie to fill the seats.
Overall Grade: B-