THE LUCKY ONE
Thinking on The Lucky One, the latest film adapted from a Nicholas Sparks novel, I can see that we have the requisite Sparks details: A.) a beautiful-looking, gentle man who is wounded soul (check), B.) a woman who has shut herself off emotionally until meeting A (check), C.) a child (check), D.) the evil love rival (check), E.) the wise elder who sees through A. & B.'s attempts at NOT falling in love (check), F.) chaste sex (check), G.) a bucolic Southern setting (check), H.) the idealized South with few to no black people (check), and I.) death hanging over our lovers. The Lucky One to its credit tries to get its leads to act. One of them can but doesn't show it. The other can't and shows plenty of it.
Logan (Zac Efron) is on his third tour in Iraq. In his final days there, he spots a picture of a beautiful woman. By moving away, he avoids an explosion that kills his fellow soldiers. It seems to Logan that this picture has kept him safe, and now, eight months after returning, still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he needs to find the woman, and thank her.
His search leads him from Colorado to Louisiana (the South, of course), where after some determination he is able to find the lady in the picture. She is Beth Green (Taylor Schilling), who runs a home for animals. In one of those quirks of Sparks, Beth thinks Logan is here about an ad for a roustabout-type, and Logan chickens out: he doesn't tell her his real reason for being there but does take the job.
In short order this quiet, dependable, hunky fellow becomes indispensible to both Beth and her wise mother Ellie (Blythe Danner), not to mention Beth's son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Now, Ben's father Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), scion of a powerful judge, don't take a shining to anyone getting near his ex-woman. He thinks Ben playing the violin is not masculine enough, and constantly threatens to take Ben away from Beth if she so much as lusts after another man.
Our lovers will not be denied. They begin their very chaste affair, and Logan soon starts getting close to Ben. However, something has to keep our lovers apart: Beth, or rather Keith, discovers Beth's photo that she had given her brother Drake when he had gone off to Iraq. Beth breaks from Logan, until we get a fortuitious twist: Logan recognizes Drake's picture that Ben had been using as a bookmark as a fellow Marine called "Aces", and he knows what happened to Drake (something the Greens have yet to learn). As Logan rushes to tell Beth how her brother died, the big storm overwhelms the big storm. As a mini-hurricane sweeps in a drunk and despondent Keith makes his threat, which causes Ben to run away, which causes Keith, Beth, and Logan to go after him, which causes Keith to risk and lose his life to rescue Ben.
Now with our lovers reconciled, Beth and Logan can start their great love affair, with Ben by their side.
No one can accuse Sparks or Will Fetters' adaptation of Sparks' novel of not keeping the saccharine levels to full capacity. One CAN however, accuse them of rank stupidity. The only way I could buy this last-minute twist (Aces=Drake) is if I accept that in the Green household, for all the time Logan must have spent there, did not have ANY pictures of Drake Green hanging or otherwise present.
I want people who love both the novel and film The Lucky One to focus on that (pun intended). The entire plot hangs on a picture (Beth's) but I'm suppose to believe for all the talking and swooning she does over Logan NO ONE: not Beth, not Ben, not Ellie, EVER bothered to show Logan what Drake looked like. IF they had done that, The Lucky One would have collapsed and ended rather quickly. The mystery of both how Aces/Drake died and how Logan came across Beth's picture would have been solved and we wouldn't have had anything else to say.
I simply don't buy that at the Green home there wouldn't have been some kind of memorial to Drake, which would have included his picture, which Logan could have recognized quickly. The fact that the story asks us to take such an insane and insanely stupid leap of logic, though typical of any Sparks book, is really too much for me to accept without complaint.
If only that weren't the only thing that makes The Lucky One a tale of stupid people falling in love. Almost every stereotypical and cliched movie moment is found in The Lucky One, courtesy of director Scott Hicks. I counted around five musical montages, where we get to see the beauty of Efron or Schilling while some song played. The climatic moment is laughable: what ARE the odds that little Ben would happen to run away when there is a major storm coming? I imagine if this was how the book was, it would have read as a piece of garbage. At best, it would be lazy and cliched writing; at worst it is insulting.
Hicks should have concentrated on trying to get his leads to act. I think Zac Efron has some abilities, but in The Lucky One he looked and behaved like a zombie. For a story that depends on romance, he was so dead on screen, completely blank and emotionaless. Schilling is a beautiful woman, but she appeared to match Efron's dead acting. Few times have I seen two leads look so bored together, as if they were drugged.
The Lucky One, in its efforts to drown in romance, has moments of unintended laughter. In one of their love scenes, Beth all but attacks Logan in passion while he's cleaning himself up. While they were writhing around in ecstacsy one could only imagine that this was giving new meaning to the phrase "getting wet". Ferguson's wild scenery-chewing as the villain du jour was almost as embarrasing as Schilling & Efron's sleepwalking.
I will concede that Alar Kivilo's cinematography is appropriately lush, bathing this imaginary Sparks South in appropriately romantic tones, and Mark Isham's score is equally lush (not good, but lush), but The Lucky One really in a bizarre way plays like it's a bad copy of a Nicholas Sparks novel, which are already bad in themselves. Somehow, The Vow is a much better stab at a Sparks story without actually being connected to Nicholas Sparks.
I can't blame The Lucky One for being a second-rate adaptation of a third-rate version of stories cranked out by a fourth-rate author. That being the case, The Lucky One fulfills its perfunctory duty to give us stupid people falling in love. I can only pray that Nicholas Sparks' luck will soon run out.