Just as I stated a couple months ago in my review for If I Stay, I am also (it turns out) not the target audience for Nicholas Sparks adaptations, the newest being The Best of Me. I thought that being a twenty-something girl who thinks Best of Me’s male lead James Marsden is easy on the eyes made me qualify, but within the first five minutes of the film I realized I had made a huge mistake. The film follows Dawson (Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan), two former high school sweethearts who were oh-so-tragically torn apart due to Dawson’s criminal family. Don’t worry, though, Dawson himself is masculine and rough around the edges, but is as pure and noble as can be—nicely fitting into the sexist archetype of the “perfect man.” The two are thrown back together twenty years after their romance first began when they learn that Dawson’s guardian, Tuck (Gerald McRaney), has died and they both need to come back to their hometown to go through Tuck’s belongings.
We learn that since they last saw each other, Dawson spent some time in jail, and Amanda got married and had kids. As the two catch up on the past twenty years, we’re also given lengthy flashbacks supplying us with the origins of their love story. The backstory is really the meat of the movie (if you could even go so far as to call it that), while present day is wholly shallow and insipid. The two obviously still love each other, they obviously get together, and Amanda’s alcoholic husband is obviously a total cad who we never care about. All of this would maybe be forgivable if it weren’t for the final quarter of the film.
If you’ve come this far and still think this is the movie for you, I guess you should stop reading because for everyone who will stay far, far away I will now present you with one of the worst endings of a movie I have ever seen. Amanda leaves her husband for the wonderful Dawson (duh), but before they can reunite, her son gets into an accident. He needs a heart transplant, and gets one just in time. As Amanda gets ready to visit her son the next day, she learns that Dawson’s abusive father has shot and killed him. Fast-forward to one year later, Amanda’s son calls her and excitedly shares the identity of the person who donated his heart. Yeah. You guessed it. Goddamn dead Dawson somehow was the one who donated his heart. This ending actually borders on being impressive in how terrible it is. If nothing else, perhaps this movie will someday redeem its own existence by having RiffTrax do something with it.
The Best of Me opens today in Philly area theaters.
Author: Catherine Haas
Catherine Haas is a native Philadelphian who received her master’s in film history from Columbia University. She is a freelance film programmer, writer, and an avid pug enthusiast.