The Longest Ride is yet another of Nicholas Sparks’ books turned into a movie. This time, it’s not the story that has everyone’s tongues wagging (and heart beating), it’s the surname of the leading man: Eastwood. Scott Eastwood is none other than Clint’s son, and he’s making a name for himself as a cowboy—just like his dad. According to ‘Entertainment Weekly’ magazine, the similarities go way beyond the cowboy hat, though. Scott’s resemblance to his father was “…the first thing Sparks and director George Tillman, Jr. noticed when the 29 year old marched in…to audition…” Tillman emphasized that Scott, however, “…won the role on his own.” Audiences will soon find out that he has the charm and charisma as well as the good looks to win any role on his own.
“The Longest Ride” follows Sparks’ tried and true formula of handsome boy meets beautiful girl, boy and girl have issues, boy and girl overcome the issues and live happily ever after. For those of you (or maybe I should say, for those two people) who have never seen a Sparks based movie or read one of his books, here’s a little more detailed synopsis of this particular film. Luke Collins (Eastwood), a champion bull rider, pushes the envelope of his career skills too far and gets seriously injured. But that isn’t enough to stop him. He must continue to ride because it’s what he knows how to do. After a comeback ride, he locks eyes with Sophia (Robertson), a beautiful, smart, and city-loving senior art student at nearby Wake Forest University. Their paths meander to and fro and with a simple fateful night, thanks to Ira Levinson, the two figure out how true love can endure. There. I hope you both enjoyed the detailed synopsis of the newest rendition of Nicholas Sparks’ film.
All in all this is a typical Nicholas Sparks love story. It’s sweet and sappy and does not have one inkling of reality to it. It is complete escapism into a world of perfect love and romance that sparks the thought, just once we wish our significant others would do something similar. (Sorry, guys.) You know, like an impromptu picnic by a lake during sunset with a lantern to perfectly light our faces. Just once. But I digress.
The story follows the formula perfectly as the first moments of love turn into a stressful conflict as Luke and Sophia wrestle with their emotions and their intellect, knowing that their lives are incompatible. Enter the old and wise Ira Levinson (Alan Alda) who finds a way to permeate their lives on every level. His age and experiences parallel some of the emotions that Luke and Sophia have and this, in turn, significantly impacts each of their lives. The writing does not stray from the formula which brings it to the predictable conclusion.
Britt Robertson’s performance is ideal for the role. Her abilities are far superior to what she is expected to do in this film, giving her complete ease in the role of Sophia. Eastwood is the dreamy and tough, yet charming and caring young man that could sweep anyone off her feet. What keeps this film moving is Alda’s performance. He brings a soulful and at times humorous performance to the role of Ira, a seasoned veteran of life, love, and war. Oona Chaplin’s performance as the young Ruth Levinson is rather one dimensional, and that dimension is over the top.
“The Longest Ride” should be re-titled, “The Longest Seating.” At a deadly 139 minutes, it would have taken more than an angry bull named Rango to jolt me back to life. It is painstakingly detailed in the writing, directing, and apparent lack of editing. Why must we know each bull’s name? How many minute-long closeups do we really need? However, the two stories we see unfold before us are wonderfully romantic. The use of flashbacks as Ira tells Sophia about his life with Ruth keeps us interested in not only knowing how Ira’s story ends, but how he will help Luke and Sophia. The conclusion is already known, but how he gets to that end point is rather creative.
“The Longest Ride” is a typical Nicholas Sparks film complete with unrealistic romantic expectations and happily ever afters. That’s what we have come to expect from this writer and his films and that is exactly what he delivers. If you enjoy sweet and sappy love stories, you’re going to enjoy this one too.