The Longest Ride
April 16, 2015
The Longest Ride (** ½)
I must admit that the latest film originating from the pen of Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride, was not something I’ve been eagerly anticipating. The last several films from the Sparks factory have been even more formulaic than usual and that’s really saying something. So it’s surprising and more than a bit refreshing that the latest Sparks adaptation actually works as well as it does. It’s nothing that’s going to change the world, on a storytelling level at least, but it gets the job done and proves to be emotionally effective from time to time. I suppose it’s the best one could hope for with one of these films, which seem to crop up on an annual basis at the least.
As usual the film is set in North Carolina, the go-to locale for material penned by Sparks. Here the main character is Luke Collins, played by newcomer Scott Eastwood, son of Clint. He lives life on the edge as a professional bull rider, never giving a thought to the negative aspects of such a chosen profession. The fact that Luke could get killed or maimed at any given moment doesn’t seem to register. That is until he chances to meet college student, Sophia (Britt Robertson), at one of his events.
Sophia and Luke have chemistry aplenty but, as in all stories in the Nicholas Sparks canon, there are complications that seemed destined to keep them apart.
Alan Alda & Britt Robertson in The Longest Ride
If there weren’t we wouldn’t have a film. Here it’s the fact that Sophia has only two weeks left before she’s committed to leave for NYC for an internship. Sophia wonders why she should get involved with Luke in the first place but can’t deny the fact that there’s something there.
Another familiar subplot in Nicholas Sparks adaptations are the magically romantic older people that serve as counterpoint for the main story. The Longest Ride has this going for it too when Sophia and Luke chance upon Issac (Alan Alda, terrific as always) on their first date, an old man trapped in a wrecked car whose life is quite literally saved by Luke’s quick thinking. Sophia feels a connection to the man and visits him regularly in the hospital, allowing Issac to spin the tale of his decades spanning love affair with his wife, Ruth. The young version of Ruth is played by Oona Chaplin, the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, while the young Issac is played by the grandson of director/actor John Huston, This gives the film some serious credibility in the casting department.
Yes, The Longest Ride may be as shamelessly manipulative and corny as one might expect but somehow it managed to work its magic for me. There are some genuinely moving scenes in the film’s touching finale and the proceedings are credibly helmed by George Tillman Jr. (Faster). For those in a certain frame of mind, The Longest Ride may provide just the right amount of sentiment that we all need at times.
This film is playing everywhere.
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