Featuring: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Screenwriters: Craig Bolotin, adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks
Movie website: www.foxmovies.com/movies/the-longest-ride
Australian release date: Thur 9 April
Verdict: Chick flick fans get the goods served up. Everyone else, stay away.
A bit of a coup, this – three of the cast have ancestral claims to Hollywood royalty: Oona Chaplin (grandaughter of Charlie), Scott Eastwood (Clint’s boy) and Jack Huston (nephew of John’s daughter, Anjelica). While there’s nothing on show here to suggest any of them are destined to attain the status of their forebears, the young bluebloods acquit themselves well enough – as far as fairy floss like this will allow, at least.
This is MillsnBoone/chick flick territory; hence, the story is formulaic. Devotees of these sorts of genre pieces have certain expectations. Why risk alienating the target market by not serving up the goods they’re paying for?
So, we have a hunky male lead – blue-eyed, narrow-hipped, boot-jeans-and-flannel-wearing rodeo cowboy Luke (Scott) – and a sorta-hard-to-get pretty babe, Sophia (Britt Robertson), just about to complete her college stint in North Carolina. Unlike her giggly wiggly sorority sisters, she is not into cowboys, and resists Luke’s initial advances, but she just can’t hold out against his old-fashioned romancin’ ways (and buff bod, honed to bedroom perfection by them buckin’ bulls). Naturally, there’s an obstacle to their happy-ever-after future together: diverging career paths in awkwardly distant geographical locations. Luke wants to be the best bull-rider in the land and to maintain he and Ma in their family ranch, while Sophia has a dream job lined up in New York’s art world. The poor dears – what to do?
Enter wise old man Ira (Alan Alda), whom the young lovers rescue from a car crash on the way home from a dream date, along with a cache of love letters to his now deceased wife. When Sophia takes to reading these aloud at the old man’s bedside to comfort him, they function as a device (clichéd and clunky) to interweave a secondary love story – that of Ira and his wife Ruth (Oona) – into the primary one. It’s a bit of a shame that Ira and Ruth’s story, which spans WW2 to the booming 50s of an idealised America and beyond, has more going for it dramatically than Luke and Sophia’s. Most importantly, though, in narrative terms, there’s a vital message to be gleaned from Ira’s tale that is directly applicable to Luke and Sophia (and indeed, to humankind one and all, God bless us): that love requires sacrifice if you’re in it for the longest ride. Awww.
It’s a lesson that Luke takes some time to learn. When he does, Ira has another surprise in store for he and his gal – one that is beyond far-fetched, but takes the story to its inevitable conclusion.
I confess, though it may come as a mild shock, that I am not partial to the genus chickus flickus. That said, I imagine The Longest Ride will hit the target demographic close to the buckin’ bullseye (sorry). All the essential ingredients of the genre are in the mix.
Further, author Nicholas Sparks manages to get all the pieces of his narrative jigsaw to fit, albeit without paying any heed to real world credibility – a bit like the ugly stepsisters cutting off their toes to fit their feet into the glass slipper in the German version of Cinderella. Still, we’re in the realm of fairy tale here, so fair suck of the sarsaparilla bottle.
And there is eye candy for both boy and gal viewers, although the latter fare much better in this respect. The cameras keep travelling lasciviously over Clint’s lad’s buff and fetchingly battle-scarred bod, apparently to knee-trembling effect. One female viewer at the preview screening responded to a teasing glimpse of stripped-off Scotty’s arse with an apparently involuntary moan that had the cinema tittering, and prompted a reviewer pal next to me to mutter “somebody needs some alone time.” That diversion was the high point of the evening (ta Dave).
Oh, and the bull riding scenes are terrific – an oasis of graphically savage and magnificently shot realism in a desert of sugar.
For other Boomtown Rap movie reviews, see Movie Review Archives