Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Written In the Stars

Nicholas Sparks sure doesn’t care for totally happy endings, huh.

Thank goodness the movies Hollywood makes outta his books do lend themselves to some fine-ass shirtless moments, I tell ya.

The Best of Me has exactly one and a half of those, and they are – no joke – the highlight (and a half) of an otherwise predictably leaden story.

Michelle Monaghan (HBO’s True Detective) and Paul Walker James Marsden star in this weeper, as Amanda and Dawson, a couple of high school sweethearts who reunite as adults 20 years years after parting, no, not cause her rich parents paid him to go away (her father did make him such an offer at one point) or even because his wrong-side-of-the-tracks-ness, as embodied by his dangerous-element redneck dad, proved inescapable.

Young Amanda (Liana Liberato) and young Dawson (Aussie newcomer Luke Bracey) would never have given into other people’s disapproval. And he’d already gotten out from under the thumb of his father and taken in by a loveably gruff surrogate played by Gerald McRaney (Netflix’s House of Cards) and reset himself on a good path, anyway.

No, as it is often the case in Sparks’ stories, these two lovebirds were torn asunder by tragic circumstances beyond their control. In this particular instance, that was the choice one of them made shortly after prom to spare the other a world of pain he – or was it she? (No Spoiler Alert!) – anticipated.

It had to happen, though, so we the audience could pay 10 hard-earned smackaroos to be manipulated into rooting for their older incarnations. Theirs, we are told, was a love that was always meant to be, no matter how far Dawson eventually ran away or how married-with-children Amanda got.

They would always knowingly look up to the stars and think of each other, and, eventually, come together again for a sweet, if short reunion.

If only the emotions in this one hadn’t been telegraphed into landing with an uninteresting thud. This could have been one of the better Sparks adaptations.

Instead, it’s a dud.

Sure, one that gave us an extended scene of Bracey gardening sans shirt (but only a hint of what Marsden is working with...), but not much in the way of effective emoting. That is like, the minimum required in a joint such as this on, and an unforgivable sin. No matter how much beefcake you throw into dud soup, it’s still dud soup.

My Rating *1/2

Photo: Relativity Media.

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