The Choice (Lionsgate, PG-13)

It’s an indulgent feelings-fest, and that’s all good and fine, but what rubs me the wrong way is that that it pretends to be about something more.


The fact that this is yet another Nicholas Sparks movie (i.e. an adaptation of one of his novels) will be enough to deter most of you. I certainly expected the worst before going in. It might have been wiser to go into it with a more impartial attitude, though, because as a result of my low expectations, I ended up not hating The Choice. That isn’t to say I’m a fan, mind you. But by the end, the film and I reached an understanding. While I don’t stand by what it chooses to be, I understand and accept it.

Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer star as Travis Parker and Gabby Holland, newfound neighbors with big, opposing personalities and generally attractive features/interesting names that aren’t too weird. The locking of horns is inevitable when Travis throws loud parties with his other fit and attractive friends while safe and non-offensive rock n’ roll is played loudly to create the illusion that he is a bad boy. Gabby is a medical intern dating a doctor so handsome and uncomfortably muscular that you wonder how he had time to get a degree in medicine with all that time spent lifting. Travis seems content to be a bachelor for life, and focuses his time on fishing, hanging with the boys, and running a veterinary practice with his dad (Tom Wilkinson) because he’s also sensitive. Things don’t seem set to change until the proximity of Travis and Gabby leads to them having several unexpected encounters, and soon enough their arguments turn into playful banter, and finally a passionate and long-lasting romance. Because this is a Nicholas Sparks movie, a devastating event that is also timely, societally speaking, threatens the happiness this couple took so long to find for themselves.

There are a few irritants, story-wise, that I’m willing to let go, as the movie doesn’t ultimately bother me. For instance, it plays on the overdone trope of a non-religious person having been broken by tragedy. Travis doesn’t believe in God and Gabby does. His mother died when he was fourteen, causing him to renounce his faith. It may come as a shock to Nicholas Sparks and the makers of this movie, but most people who don’t believe in God just don’t believe in God. Simple. Nobody had to die for them to arrive at that conclusion. A few other tired film conventions make unwelcome appearances, like Travis and Gabby smugly being told they are in love by family members who have no other way to support this claim other than “I know you. You love her/him.” Moments like this are to be expected since they often function as convenient screenwriting devices that are necessary to easily and quickly set up the emotional content that justifies the film’s existence. It’s an indulgent feelings-fest, and that’s all good and fine, but what rubs me the wrong way is that that it pretends to be about something more.

The alleged themes are choices and moving on, but the tough parts of life that the story confronts us with are clearly there for the purposes of emotional manipulation. More often than not, the painful issues the characters encounter simply resolve themselves, making it so they never really have to make any actual choices. For a movie called The Choice, pretty much no one has any tough decision making to do. It allows for the audience to be complacent and comfortable, which is undoubtedly what the target audience wants to feel. But since the movie only tries to be moving and never challenging, we get a momentarily stimulating but ultimately hollow experience. | Nic Champion


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