The Longest Ride (20th Century Fox, PG-13)

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The story ends too perfectly. All the problems are solved and everything is tied in a nice bow.




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I’m disappointed with The Longest Ride. I love Nicholas Sparks’ novels, and the film adaptations are usually pretty good. I had hopes for this one because Sparks co-wrote it, but this film just falls flat.

The Longest Ride tells the love story of art student Sophia (Britt Robertson, of the upcoming Tomorrowland) and professional bull rider Luke (Clint’s son Scott Eastwood). Coming from different worlds, the two are skeptical of the longevity of their relationship. When the young couple meets an elderly man, Ira (Alan Alda), he shares his and his wife’s story, which holds many similarities to Sophia and Luke.

While watching this film I was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie. There was not a single moment that I believed the story playing out in front of me was real. I can’t say that Robertson and Eastwood are bad actors because I did connect with both of their characters and they both delivered on the emotion. I think the problem comes from the direction—the actors do not display real human behavior. Their actions feel calculated and rehearsed to the point where I felt like I was watching them say “I am supposed to stare intently into my co-star’s eyes right now.” There are a lot of awkward and uncomfortable pauses, which I believe director George Tillman Jr. included on purpose as a means to establish the uncertainty of a new relationship, but I feel like he missed the mark. Once the characters were comfortable with one another, they were still awkward, staring at each other too long to be meaningful, walking too slow as if they were counting the exact number of steps they were told to take when blocking the scene—it’s very strange.

Sparks is known for writing epic love stories, but Sophia and Luke’s story is not epic—it’s average. This is a classic tale of, okay, I’m in love, now do I choose my significant other or my career? This makes the characters more relatable, no doubt, but it also fails to meet the expectations that Sparks has created for his fans. I was bored watching Robertson and Eastwood together. Ira’s flashback story with younger versions of himself (American Hustle’s Jack Huston) and his wife, Ruth (Game of Thrones’ Oona Chaplin), was much more compelling.

Alan Alda is the best part of the film for me. He gets all of the humorous lines (that are intended—I did laugh a lot when I’m sure I wasn’t meant to) and also brought more complexity to his character than the younger actors.

The scenes between Alda and Robertson are my favorite—the relationship between Sophia and Ira is much more interesting than either of the romantic relationships that are explored.

The story ends too perfectly. All the problems are solved and everything is tied in a nice bow. For me, love stories need to be realistic in order to work. I’m all for a good happy ending, but The Longest Ride ends in such a way that you leave the theater thinking that there is no way that will ever happen to anyone because it was so unrealistic.

This film should have been set in high school instead of college. It’s more comparable to If I Stay than to The Notebook or A Walk to Remember. Tweens and teens will love this movie. Young girls who are still dreaming of their first love will fall head over heels for this tale, idealizing Eastwood’s character as the boyfriend of their dreams. This age group will overlook the strange moments, focus only on seeing two people fall in love, and they’ll love the ending. | Samantha LaBat

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