Movie Review: The Best of Me
Wow. This is bad, even on the Nicholas Sparks-realm of bad. And I don’t say that lightly. Nicholas Sparks, according to the Internet (and Wikipedia), has written nineteen books, and I have read seventeen of them. Nine of his books have become movies and I have seen all of them (a few multiple times). I cut my hair to look like Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember (bad phase, just say no to bangs if you have curly hair), and The Notebook is still one of my favorite movies (in fact, I watched it again just this week. If you’re a bird, I’m a bird.) I’m no Nicholas Sparks hater. But The Best of Me is just plain TERRIBLE.
I read the novel a long time ago so I vaguely remembered the plot, but in case you don’t know (or can’t guess): a couple falls in love, gets pulled apart, and then meets up again later in life. There’s more going on but basically the movie is told in a series of flashbacks to younger Dawson and Amanda (Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato) as they fall in love, juxtaposed with current Dawson and Amanda (James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan) as they are brought together again. Bracey and Liberato bring life to the movie, and Gerald McRaney, as Tuck, Dawson’s pseudo-surrogate father, steals the scenes he’s in with grace and sparkle. Marsden and Monaghan are the faces on the posters and the bigger names in the film, but their segments are boring and their characters not as interesting as the younger “versions” of themselves, especially Monaghan, who frankly is just annoying with her whiney lines and same Botox-looking facial expression for every scene.
But it’s not just Monaghan who made this movie irritating. The screenwriting is just horrendous. After watching this movie, I tried to think about why I disliked it so much. It’s not just the plot, or the frivolity and cheesiness of it—I mean, this is coming from a girl whose second-favorite movie made her cry for the fortieth time just last Wednesday while eating chocolate on the couch. It’s not just the screenplay, which, let’s face it, was no Oscar gold, but hey, what did we expect. It’s the combination. It’s always tough working with a story that has dueling time periods or parallel storylines because one is inevitably tenser or more interesting, but in this case, the past storyline outbid the present 100 to one, and the screenwriters really didn't do much to help the story along.
I think this movie infuriated me because good chick flicks come out rarely, and usually I can count on Nicholas Sparks to at least give me a good-bad one every once and a while. For all the southern romances that he’s thrown our way, I was expecting something a little bit more entertaining. Although, I just found out he’s not even from the south—he’s from Nebraska (thanks, Wikipedia), so I guess he might be a better fiction writer than I originally thought, since he had to concoct all those southern scenes from his Nebraska-rooted self. Waiting for him to write the next great romance set in Omaha.
Stars: 1 out of 5
Bring to the Movie: A three-scoop ice cream, like I did, which the server informed me is equal to almost a pint. Thanks, ice cream-scooper lady, for making me feel like more than a pig than I already did.
Don’t Bring to the Movie: Tissues. Save it for the next chick flick.
I had successfully avoided movies based on Nicholas Sparks books for most of my life, but for reasons I will not disclose (Allie! Blame Allie! It's all her fault!) I have seen quite a few in the last few years. This development has revealed that my presumption about Nicholas Sparks stories were completely off. I had thought that they were all predictable idyllic sappy romances. They are sappy romances, but they're not predictable at all. In fact they're batshit insane. They're filled with murderous psychopaths, evil filicidal drug dealing fathers and magical ghost moms. They are works of absolute madness. So while they are all (obviously) not without their flaws, I've learned to expect films that are more terrible than they are boring, which is at least worth something. Right?
The Best of Me continues this proud tradition of insanity with enough plot for four awful films. It would be a great act of generosity to call it tonally inconsistent, as it goes from romance to to action film. Much like in his other films, it seems that Nicholas Sparks starts to craft a sweet, if uninspired and cliched love story, feels insecure and then decides a bunch of people need to die and weird crap needs to happen so he doesn't feel like a wuss. I imagine young Nicholas Sparks playing with his sister's Barbies in the bathtub and then getting caught so he starts pretending like they were fighting the whole time. Then he rips the leg off of one because of destiny or something.
Basically this film is a bunch of hogwash. There are scenes of violent deaths out of left field next to scenes of a young couple discussing fate and love. There is the familiar meet cute and then the not so familiar supervillain drug dealing dad. It's a weird movie. It entertained me thoughout even if it did so by being unbelievably, mind-meltingly terrible. I'll call it a small victory.
Stars: 1.5 out of 5
How does it compare to other Nicholas Sparks films?
Better than: The Lucky One
Worse than: The Notebook