Sparks fly once again (see what I did there?) as the author of The Notebook delivers yet another idyllic romance to the teary eyes of women (and some men) everywhere.
Based on the book by Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride tells the story of two young lovers and the bulls that come between them. Is it a rodeo champion or does it get thrown? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out.
So who stars in this movie? Scott Eastwood (yes, Clint’s son) plays Luke; his other films include Fury and Gran Torino. Britt Robertson (who incidentally started acting at Greenville Little Theatre–homegirl!) of The Secret Circle and The First Time portrays Sophia. And Alan Alda, best remembered for his role in the hit TV series M*A*S*H, is Ira. The director is George Tillman Jr. of Faster, Men of Honor, and Soul Food. Not a director whose work I’ve seen, but of the films I mentioned, only the last one is rated fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Probably not the best sign.
The trailer begins as city girl Sophia heads with her friends to see a rodeo, saying, “Isn’t it strange how your life can be going in one direction?” And yet the band by the same name isn’t? (Too soon?) “And then you meet that one person, and everything changes,” she continues as Luke leaps off his bull and drops his hat in front of her. She tries to give it back to him, but he tells her to keep it. I don’t want it now that it’s covered in bull sweat.
“I’m starting a new chapter of my life,” says Sophia. “I do not need any instructions.” Except, apparently, how to wear a cowboy hat, as Luke repositions it on her head. “You are literally the only girl I know who wouldn’t have a fling with a cowboy,” Sophia’s friend tells her. Then we see Luke and Sophia go on a picnic date by the lake, so I guess she’s having a fling with a cowboy and that was an incorrect use of literally. “No one has ever done anything like this for me before,” says Sophia. No one’s ever taken you on a date to the lake? What kind of stuffed shirts have you been dating?
A storm forces them back on the road, but they discover a wrecked, burning vehicle and stop to help the driver, Ira. Once the older man is safe in the hospital, Sophia brings him a basket full of old letters that she rescued from his car. So you went rifling through a stranger’s belongings in his burning vehicle? That’s both creepy and dangerously stupid. “I haven’t been able to read these in years,” says Ira. “Would you like me to read them to you?” Sophia asks. He has glasses, Sophia. I think it’s pain, not eyesight, that’s the problem, and hearing the words isn’t going to be any better. And if his eyesight is the problem, why on earth was he driving?!
But because it’s not a Nicholas Sparks story without romantic snail mail, we hear Sophia read Ira’s letter to the love of his life, Rose–wait, why does he have the letters he wrote to her? Was he carrying them around hoping he would get around to mailing them one of these days? Was that what he was doing when he crashed? Why else would they be in his car and not in his home somewhere? And why would he even want to read his letter to her? Wouldn’t he find more comfort in her words to him? Ugh, this plot point better be explained in the book/movie.
Anyway, Luke tells his mother he met a girl. “You meet girls all the time,” says Mom. You should meet a nice boy once in a while; it might be a nice change to your social sphere. Luke claims that Sophia is different, and Sophia adds, “I’ve never felt this way about anybody.” Which is apparently enough to get them in bed together. Wow, you’ve known each other all of what, three days? Even Disney princesses are telling you to slow down!
Fortunately, Ira delivers some caution, telling them that not everyone gets a happily ever after ending, and it wasn’t even that simple with him and Rose. You wouldn’t believe the fight we had over the color of our first bedspread. “Our first kiss was a promise of everything to come,” Ira says. I think I caught a hint of global apocalypse in the aftertaste. Sophia wonders if her relationship with Luke will last when they come from such different worlds. Personally, I’d be more concerned with the fact that he just got thrown into a wall by a bull. That could end your relationship a lot faster than any personal drama.
In fact, the doctor agrees with me, saying that if he doesn’t stop riding bulls, he’ll be on his way to the morgue. So naturally, Luke just swallows a pain pill and goes back out there, saying, “This is my life. It’s all I know.” Maybe that would have been a good thing to figure out before you took off your clothes in front of each other. Ira asks Sophia how he can help, and she just smiles. Silly old man, you’re in a hospital bed. You can’t do anything.
“I can’t be with someone if every time they walk out the door, I don’t know if I’m going to see them again,” says Sophia. That might be asking a bit much, dear, considering that’s kinda true about everyone who walks out a door. (Think about that, people.) Meanwhile, in the past, Ira promises Rose he’ll come back from war, a promise he apparently kept since he’s still alive and well in the present (there goes that bit of tension). Luke and Sophia agree that they don’t know how to make their relationship work. Duct tape; it fixes everything.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Rose tells Ira. I can’t deal with you maybe dying to defend my country, so our relationship that motivates you to come home alive is over. “Love requires sacrifice,” Ira tells Sophia as the trailer draws to a close, “but it’s worth it. Always.” I can’t make a joke about that; that’s actually a very true and heartfelt statement. It would mean more if they focused on the sacrifice instead of young beautiful people hooking up in the shower, but hey, sex sells.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend the movie? Sort of. The actors are talented and fresh, Nicholas Sparks seems to know how to write a story people like, and the film offers themes of love and sacrifice. It’d be better if the movie focused on those themes instead of sex. Seriously, I had to look through three trailers before I found one that downplayed the sex scenes in favor of the story, and even in this trailer, they’re still there.
I’ve said it before (in Winter’s Tale, complete with reasons) and I’ll say it again: one second sex scenes in trailers are a pet peeve of mine. But some of you might think, isn’t sex a crucial part of the story? Isn’t it a primal motivation for the characters? Yes, yes it is. At it’s most basic, The Longest Ride is about whether Luke and Sophia will have sex (which sounds crude, I know, but sex is more than just reproduction and pleasure; it’s connection at the deepest level, physically and spiritually). But by putting these scenes in the trailer, or even in the movie at all, we know the answer. The tension is removed; the goal is reached. The question now becomes whether the two will continue to have sex, and it makes for a much less compelling and primal story.
As for the movie itself, if you like chick flicks or Nicholas Sparks, this is pretty standard fare that you’ll probably enjoy. Those types of films aren’t my personal choice, so I’ll probably skip this one.
Like a bull, it’d probably throw me off before I got eight seconds in.
The Longest Ride is owned by 20th Century Fox.