As long as there are authors like Nicholas Sparks in the world, Hollywood will never suffer a dearth of material to concoct so-called romance films. But the problem remains that while Sparks’ stories may make for some entertaining romance novels (The Notebook, Dear John), they don’t make very compelling films. The Lucky One is no different.
The film suffers the most from a story that is so straight-forward it is almost impossible to be fully engaged in despite the beautiful idyllic landscapes customary of Sparks’ novels. The characters are also recycled archetypes that could be put to good use in other better films, but here they remain frustratingly one-dimensional. Zac Efron plays Logan, a recently discharged Marine who served three tours in Iraq and believes he owes his life to a picture of a woman he found amidst the rubble after an attack. Aside from being a dedicated soldier, Logan is portrayed as a quiet and strong “man of mystery,” who is compelled to walk from his home in Colorado to Louisiana in search of his guardian angel. We’re not even going to talk about the craziness of this feat, or how after weeks of sleeping in the woods baby-faced Efron still looks completely adorable. It just doesn’t matter. Anyway, he meets Beth (Taylor Schilling), a strong gentle woman with a past who is habitually outfitted in flowing, flowery garb, and instead of telling her why he’s really there, he ends up working at the kennel Beth and her mother Ellie (Blythe Danner) run.
The rest of the film plays out like a day-in-the-life reality show that outstays its welcome, with montages of frolicking dogs and stolen glances between Beth and Logan. The mundane is only punctuated with moments of absurd tension from Beth’s stalker ex-husband who grows increasingly angered over Logan’s presence in his wife and son’s life. This tension culminates in a very bizarre and all too convenient climax towards the end of the film that is so rife with over dramatics that it’s hard to justify it’s existence in a novel or a film.
I tend to get annoyed at films like The Lucky One, not because I’m against “chick-flicks” but because the genre refuses to blend the ideals of chivalrous romance with modern ideas about sensuality. I found myself feeling awkward and bored with the central romance between Logan and Beth, and I’m not sure if it’s due to poor casting, chemistry, or writing. None of it felt relatable, which left me very disinterested for most of the film’s running time.
The one bright spot in this film for me was Blythe Danner’s Ellie, who is the perfect example of a stereotype done to perfection. Every time I wanted to slap someone she’d utter a one-liner only a wacky grandma could deliver and all would be forgiven. Beth’s son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) also seemed to be cut from the same character cloth. Their moments on screen were few, but a much appreciated distraction.
Regardless of my opinions on the state of romance films today, The Lucky One already comes complete with a built-in audience who are fans of the Sparks universe: you already know who you are (and you’re ignoring my cynicism), and if you’re not, then you’re probably not reading this review.
The Lucky One opens today in Philly-area theaters.