Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Lucky One on DVD

Lately, Nicholas Sparks book-to-movie adaptations have been striking out with me, so I wasn't too eager to see The Lucky One. But it kept crossing my radar, and since there's been little else out that I really want to see, I rented it. I was sort of pleasantly surprised; at least it was better than average.

The movie stars Zac Efron as a soldier whose life is literally saved by the discovery of another man's discarded picture. Logan returns from war an emotionally wounded man. To avoid hurting his sister's family and to try to offer thanks to the woman in the photo, he sets off walking across the country to Louisiana. He means to just say "thank you," but is that enough? Unable to find the words or even explain himself, he ends up with a job at Beth's dog kennel. Beth (Taylor Schilling) is still struggling from the loss of her brother in the war, and raising a kid as a single mom isn't easy, especially when  her former husband Keith, also the town sheriff, is making life more difficult. Quiet Logan does everything he can to help, and eventually he and Beth fall in love. But Logan can't keep ignoring the real reason he entered Beth's life. And Keith will do anything to get him out of it.

It's an interesting story, probably even better in the book. And neither of the two main characters dies in the end! (Sparks seems to like his romances to be partly tragedies, too.) There's still a lot of angst and true-to-life emotional trauma, but the romance is fairly solid.

I was impressed with Zac Efron, even though his character is stoic and seems to hardly require acting. Knowing what Efron is capable of (High School Musical), seeing him in this very different role was remarkable. He obviously has a pretty broad acting range. It can't be easy to pull off stoic and still make your character likeable and reachable; there's a lot of internal acting there.

I did say the romance is good, but unfortunately, there is a sexual aspect to it, shown in more detail (though nothing graphic; it's rated PG-13) than it needs to be. I would have preferred it not to exist, but it is Nicholas Sparks. Why does "good romance" automatically come with sex these days? We women like our Pride and Prejudice just fine. (Although, Fifty Shades of Grey seems to be the new thing. I wonder, do some of the same women like both? Can't they see the difference?)

Besides the sexual immorality, I had one other beef with the movie toward the end. (SPOILER ALERT) Do you know what deus ex machina means? It's a plot device where a god, or the equivalent, comes out of nowhere to save the day. Basically, it's a cop-out. Characters don't have to make the hard decisions. They are miraculously saved. That happens with Keith. He is nicely ejected from the picture so that Logan and Beth and her son can become a family. No mention is made of the effects this might have on the kid, who admires his no-good dad. It's played like it's supposed to be "happily ever after" from here on out. I guess the movie didn't want to dwell on the emotional fall-out when it was trying to wrap things up. Maybe the book does better, but in that case, I suppose it's somewhat of a tragedy, after all.

Otherwise, I generally liked the movie. Beautiful setting, lots of dogs, good acting. If only it wasn't Nicholas Sparks! I say that tongue-in-cheek, of course. But I do wonder if he's ever going to give us another "walk to remember." (Oh, wait, that was a tragedy, too, albeit one with morals and a hopeful, positive message at the end.)

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