Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker), the male lead of the new Nicholas Sparks tearjerker “The Choice,” only has one deck chair outside his North Carolina
Home. “A man with only one chair outside his house,” we’re told, “wants to be alone,” but does he really? This is a King of Romance® Nicholas Sparks, the man with a romantic plan so the whole movie is basically a countdown to Travis and his beautiful new neighbour, medical student Gabby (Teresa Palmer) have movie sex and experience a trademarked Sparksian tragedy.
Travis is a good ol’ boy who’s used to getting what he wants from women without ever falling in love. A combination of good looks and Southern charm—although some might call it Southern smarm—means that he is rarely without company. His on-and-off girlfriend Monica (Alexandra Daddario) boomerangs in-and-out of his life but mostly he goes it alone… that is until Gabby moves in next door. She’s cramming for her medical boards while working at the local hospital side-by-side her fiancée Ryan (Tom Welling) and future father-in-law (Brett Rice). She calls Travis a walking cautionary tale and has no interest but he is smitten and everyone around them thinks they have great chemistry.
“Are you two..?” asks Travis’s father Dr. Shep (Tom Wilkinson).
“Hell no!” drawls Travis.
“Gross!” spits Gabby.
Their lips say no, but their eyes say yes. When will they kiss? When will they walk in the rain? When will the inevitable tragedy that strengthens their love happen?
“The Choice” is all about decisions, the little determinations you make along the way that may have long-term effects on your life. I’m here to help you decide if buying a ticket for “The Choice” will have any effect, good or bad, on you.
If you know Nicholas Sparks movies like “The Notebook,” “The Last Song” or “Dear John,” you already know what to expect. There will be “witty” repartee that, I guess, is what passes for foreplay in the Sparks universe. The story will be tinged with tragedy and the main couple will hate one another at first. Someone will offer up old timey romantic advice like, “If you see a man sleeping on the cold floor there must be a beautiful woman nearby” and at some point something vaguely supernatural will happen. It’s a formula geared to make you well up and this movie has every Sparksism in spades. In truth, however, it is about as affecting as a Canadian Tire commercial.
If you enjoy being manipulated and cry easily you make (or may not) enjoy the movie. That choice is yours.
Novelist Nicholas Sparks is the current king of romance writers. His flowery prose even gives Harlequin a run for their money in the three-hanky tearjerker department. Who else could write a line like, “Love is like the wind, you can’t see it but you can feel it,” with a straight face?
He is to romance writing what Buckley’s cough syrup is to a tickly throat. They both get the job done, but leave a sickly sweet aftertaste.
His best-known novel adaptation is The Notebook, a cross-generational love story that spent over a year as a New York Times hardcover top seller. Inspired by the story of his wife’s grandparent’s sixty-year marriage, the novel became a 2004 movie starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. The tale of love and Alzheimer’s is emotionally manipulative—writer Gary Panton called this passionate weepie “mushier than a mushed-up bowl of mushy peas that’s just been mushed in an industrial-strength mushifier”—but opening weekend it surfed a wave of tears to the box office top five.
Sparks, a former pharmaceutical salesman writes tales of love and loss, of mighty obstacles overcome and lip-locks galore, which he defines as “dramatic epic love stories” along the lines of “Eric Segal’s Love Story or The Bridges of Madison County… But you can even go all the way back. You had Hemingway write A Farewell to Arms, the movies of the forties—Casablanca, From Here to Eternity—Shakespeare, and that’s the genre I work in.”
He caught some flack for comparing himself to Shakespeare—one writer said, “If Sparks is like Shakespeare, then a housepainter is like Picasso.”—but the fact remains that his unconventional love stories, his parcels of passion, have made his name synonymous with the romance genre.
This weekend prepare for another flurry of Sparkisms—tearstained romantic letters, lines like, “Love requires sacrifice but it’s worth it,” and passionate make-out sessions—as The Longest Ride hits the big screen.
This time around “Two stories separated by time, connected by fate,” get Sparksified as the lives of a young couple, played by Scott “Clint’s son” Eastwood and Britt Robertson and older love birds Alan Alda and Oona Chaplin, interlace. “I wish I could tell you it’s all happily ever after,” says Alda’s character, “not everybody gets that.”
Expect unexpected poignancy.
Critics haven’t always warmed to Sparks’s stories on film—Safe Haven with Julianne Hough as “a young woman’s struggle to love again” has a paltry 12% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes while The Best of Me starring Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden as high school sweethearts reunited after two decades sits at a miserable 8% rating—but audiences can’t seem to get enough of his weepy tales of unrequited love, lost love, mature love and love in a time of trouble. Ten of his books have already been adapted for the movies, with one more, The Choice, scheduled for 2016.
His style of romance has caught on, but don’t call him a romance writer. “I write dramatic fiction. If you go into a further subgenre, it would be a love story, but it has its roots in the Greek tragedies. This genre evolved through Shakespeare. He did Romeo and Juliet. Hemingway did A Farewell to Arms. I do this currently today.”
The flowery prose of Nicholas Sparks has singlehandedly kept Kleenex in business since “The Notebook” made the former pharmaceutical salesman the King of the Weepie. The latest big-screen Sparksisms—tearstained romantic letters, lines like, “Love requires sacrifice… always,” and passionate make-out sessions—come in the form of “The Longest Ride,” an intergenerational romance starring Clint-spawn Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Oona Chaplin and Alan Alda.
This time around Sparks tells of “Two stories separated by time, connected by fate.”
The first couple is twenty-something sorority sister Sophia Danko (Robertson) an art major—“I love art,” she gushes, “I love everything about it.”—lured to the rodeo by her housemate with the promise of “the hottest guys you’ve ever seen.” There she lays eyes on a cowboy named Luke (Eastwood)—aren’t all cowboys named Luke?—a bull rider trying to make a comeback after almost being killed the last time he competed. They lock eyes and you know it won’t be long before they’re line dancing off to happily-ever-after land. “Before I met you the closest I got to cattle was steak,” she coos.
Fate brings them in contact with ninety-year-old widower Ira Levinson (Alda). Driving home from a date the newly besotted couple spots a nasty car crash on a remote road. They rescue Ira, but the accident has left him near death. The only thing that keeps him going is the urging of his late wife Ruth (Chaplin).
That’s right, dead Ruth gets Sparksified, brought back to life as an ephemeral spirit through the reading of old letters (and sepia toned flashbacks) that recount their life and the ups and downs of marriage.
Brought together by circumstance, the couple’s lives mix and match, as the stories—one existing in memory, the other at the rodeo—converge and they learn about sacrifice, bull ridin’ and the power of love to overcome the challenges life throws in the way of romance.
“The Longest Ride” made me cry, but not in the way Nicholas Sparks intended.
The movie takes place in a world where ranch hands and Warhols co-exist and couples are expected to walk off into the sunset hand in hand. In other words it’s Über Harlequin; an alternate universe romance where two tangentially related stories can be fused together by tears and warm group hugs.
There are parallels between the tales—both men are North Carolina “country bumpkins” who fall for women from out of state, both couples take pictures in photo booths, both have “I don’t know how to make this work” moments and Sophia is about to go to New York to intern at a gallery while Ira left town to go to war—but mostly the stories are tied together by an abundance of Sparksian clichés. There’s the “elevated kiss”—most famously used in “The Notebook” when Ryan Gosling hoisted Rachel McAdams over his head and locked lips—which is overused here as are the obligatory “lake scene,” longing glances and reliance on epistolary to tell the story.
Ira’s letters to Ruth make up the backbone of the romance, but they don’t exactly make sense. To push the story forward they are written in a weird stilted way—“I took over my dad’s booming business while you taught at school”—that appears to be telling Ruth a story she was already familiar with, you know, having lived it and all. It’s a strange way to provide exposition and makes the movie narration heavy.
Stranger still are some of director George Tillman Jr.’s choices. The cross cutting between love making and a bull riding lesson may be the least subtle thing ever and couldn’t feel any less romantic. Add to that one of the worst war scenes in recent memory, close-ups of rage-a-holic bulls and you walk away not feeling filled with romance, but as though you have messed with the bull and gotten the horn.
“The Other Woman,” a new madcap comedy from “The Notebook” director Nick Cassavetes, features a character who tries to push infidelity to Tiger Woodsian heights. There have been philanderers on film before, but rarely has one cinematic cheater spread himself so thin, carrying on simultaneously with Leslie Mann, Cameron Diaz and Sports Illustrated cover girl Kate Upton.
That man, Mark King (Game of Thrones’s Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is cheating on his wife (Mann) with multiple mistresses, including Carly and Amber (Diaz and Upton).
“We got played by the same guy,” says Carly. “I call it a tie.”
The three women form an unlikely bond—“We are the weirdest friends ever,” says Carly—drowning their sorrows in a sea of tequila shots before hatching a plan to humiliate and financially ruin the three timer. “The three of us can be just as shady as he can.”
With “The Notebook” Cassavetes made one of the most romantic movies of recent years. With “The Other Woman” the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction. This is an anti-romance flick about sex, lies and adultery but it is ripe with laughs and some fun performances.
Mann goes all in as a Lucille Ball-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown type, Diaz has great comic timing and even the voluptuous Kate “She’s a clichéd version of every wife’s nightmare” Upton, who will never be confused with Meryl Streep, is charming and funny. Singer Nicki Minaj, who darts in and out of the film in an extended cameo, manages to get a couple of zingers in there as well.
Coster-Waldau doesn’t fare as well. He’s fine as the oily Casanova but is more “Game of Thrones” (he’s Jaime Lannister on the HBO show) when it comes to playing comedy. In other words he’s better at sword swinging than slapstick.
The film is slightly mean spirited and not terribly subtle in its examination of the dynamics between men and women, or in its soundtrack. The “Mission Impossible” theme blares over a scene where Diaz and Mann spy on Coster-Waldau, and you can bet your bottom dollar “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” will play at some point.
It may not be refined but it does get the girl power stuff right, and that’s more the point of the film. This isn’t a movie about the men, they are flesh props, simply the McGuffins that forward the plot. This is a movie about female bonding rather than female blaming and on that level it scores. The comedy material is often elevated and enhanced by the performer’s skill, but the film has its (broken) heart in the right place.
“The Other Woman” is a chick flick that isn’t “Bridemaids” funny, but you will laugh out loud quite a few times.
On-screen and off Rachel McAdams defies categorization. A bundle of contradictions—she describes herself as “a daydreamer and a dawdler,” and “a very serious person” who has “always been kind of girly”—she lives in Toronto despite having a thriving career in Hollywood.
The common thread that links her movies, from the über-romance of The Notebook to the bawdy comedy of Wedding Crashers and the intrigue of State of Play is a simple, yet indefinable quality: intelligence. Her intellect informs every role she takes, even in a completely silly comedy like The Hot Chick, her first hit. It takes smarts to suggestively deliver a line like, “I hear it’s good for the skin if you take your towel off,” to a sauna full of women while playing a boy trapped in a woman’s body and still have a career once critics get through with the film.
“That brain is substantial,” says Diane Keaton of her frequent co-star, “and if you have that along with a face you can’t take your eyes off, it’s so compelling. It’s rare.”
She is a rarity, one of the few gilded members of young Hollywood who has made her work the focus of her career and avoided becoming a tabloid punching bag like her Mean Girls co-star Lindsay Lohan.
“I want to pick good projects,” she said in 2004, “I want to work with great directors and try not to put too much pressure on myself and just read things for the story and recognize when I’m drawn to something for the right reasons.”
After years of figure skating at ice carnivals, working at MacDonald’s in southwestern Ontario, studying drama at York University and appearing in forgettable TV shows (Shotgun Love Dolls anyone?) the smart and funnyexposé of high school caste systems Mean Girls was the movie that put her on the map.
She modeled the flamboyantly wicked Regina George on Alec Baldwin’s performance in Glengarry Glen Ross. Spitting out lines like, “So you think you’re pretty?” through a cobra smile, she won critical praise and very nearly stole the show.
Then, just when audiences thought they had her typecast along came 2004s The Notebook, the deeply romantic Nicolas Sparks story. Given the script just one day in advance of the auditions McAdams beat out nine other actresses (including Ashley Judd, Britney Spears and Reese Witherspoon) for the now iconic role of Allie, the woman who finds freedom in the arms of a man (Ryan Gostling) her mother calls “trash.” Roger Ebert said her performance contained “beauty and clarity” and suddenly Hollywood had a new “it” girl.
Although she admits to being a “sucker for sweeping love stories” she didn’t capitalize on the breakout success of The Notebook by churning out a series of cookie-cutter romances or taking advantage of the huge offers coming her way—she turned down the role of Bond girl Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale—instead she opted for a variety of projects, none of which was a romance in the traditional sense.
She made waves as Owen Wilson’s love interest in the raunchy comedy Wedding Crashers, became an action star in Wes Craven’s thriller Red Eye and played the outspoken daughter of Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson in the critically lauded ensemble family drama The Family Stone.
Then, as quickly as she came to prominence, she was gone. For almost two years she was absent from screens until she took on the role of Kay, the platinum blonde focus of a love triangle between Chris Cooper and Pierce Brosnan, in the suspenseful psychological thriller Married Life. It’s the film she credits with rejuvenating her interest in filmmaking after some time off.
Since then she’s been a mainstay at festivals and multiplexes playing everything from a soldier whose boyfriend was killed saving her life in The Lucky Ones to the titular spouse in the sci fi romance The Time Traveler’s Wife and Sherlock Holmes’s beguiling Irene Adler opposite Robert Downey Jr.
Her best reviews of 2009 came with State of Play (which airs on TMN and Movie Central this month), a political drama in the spirit of All the Presidents Men. She co-stars with Russell Crowe and Helen Mirren as a Washington Post blogger working with Crowe’s investigative reporter to unravel clues in the murder of a congressman’s mistress.
With a full slate of films announced for the next couple of years—including Morning Glory with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton and a project with legend Terrence Malick—it seems the chameleon spirit of Rachel McAdams is just as restless as ever.
“It’s fun to experiment,” she says, “I’m always kind of a slave to the character. Whatever kind of vision comes to my head I just have to go with it.”
Article from National Post by Shinan Govani: “How hot is the movie Shortbus? Not anywhere as hot as the two familiar faces that turned out for a screening in Toronto last Friday!
At the unspooling we speak of — held at the Cumberland in Yorkville — some of the cinemagoers couldn’t help but notice an obviously affectionate woman sitting on the lap of her scruffy 21st-century prince. In fact, even Sook-Yin Lee and Richard Crouse noticed them! (She, who stars in the much-discussed Shortbus and is as famous as famous gets in Toronto, was there to introduce the movie. He, a professional movie-watcher who was there to introduce her!)
“They started their Q&A after the movie,” a mole reveals, “by making a joke about how the movie seemed to be having the right effect on the young couple!”
People chuckled; they moved on; the marquee twosome sank ever-deeper into their seats. But then the story took a sitcomish turn when the lovebirds went over afterwards to talk to Sook-Yin … and it turned out that it was Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams!
The same two canny Canadians, who took a page out of The Notebook, and hooked up as a real-life couple last year. The same two canny Canadians who put the MVP into PDA!
They went on to pay their compliments to the CBC personality/ actress. Told her they liked Shortbus, a movie with sex scenes that are famously quite out-there and un-edited.
It’s been a spectactularly good stretch on-screen too for the handsome pair. Rachel — who’s been sitting in fortune’s lap when she’s not in Ryan’s — recently followed up movies like Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls and The Family Stone with a turn in Marriage, co-starring Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper. Her sweetheart, meanwhile, is the subject of endless Oscar talk for his earthy, honest performance in the indie flick Half Nelson.
Soon, very soon, Mr. Gosling starts work on his latest project, Lars and the Real Girl. It so just happens to be shooting in town. Meaning: Going to the movies in Toronto may be a lot more exciting for a few months still.”