|The Lucky One
Starring Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner
I have to start by saying it's strange going to see a movie expecting one thing and being completely surprised by another. I'm not a big fan of romantic movies, but Nicholas Sparks is a decent storyteller, so I gave it a shot. And while I wasn't too impressed with the romance aspect of the film, there were some very enjoyable light hearted moments in The Lucky One that not only made the film bearable for me, but made me wish the entire film was focused around moments like these.
Logan (Zac Efron) is a marine who, after finding a photo of a woman in some rubble, can't explain why he seems to survive situations that leave everyone else around him dead. Traumatized by the events, once he returns home he sets out to find this mysterious woman and thank her for saving his life; his search leads him to a small town in the south and the mystery woman, named Beth (Taylor Schilling), her son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) and her mother, Ellie (Blythe Danner).
I'm at least thankful that the reason Logan sought out Beth wasn't portrayed as creepy; it's an interesting premise, but when you're looking for someone you don't know, and trying to tell that person why, it could be a difficult line to straddle between stalkerish and desperate. It's not the case here, but they sure milk Logan's attempts at trying to tell Beth why he walked all the way to Louisiana. Unfortunately, that's about the extent of the romance for this film.
And while every girl in the theater would probably disagree with me, but the chemistry between Zac Efron and Taylor Schilling seemed lukewarm at best. Efron would go from vibrant and alive when on the screen with Riley Thomas Stewart or Blythe Danner, then become dull when on the screen with Schilling. He even looked awkward kissing her; I really wasn't buying that he felt anything for her. To make it worse, Schilling tries even harder to create something between her and Efron, which then just makes the whole situation look lopsided.
However, when we had the ever enjoyable Blythe Danner or Riley Thomas Stewart on the screen, the movie's tone changed and for the better. They helped shape some of the best heart-warming and comedic moments of the film, with Danner often able to invoke laughs with only a look. It was these moments that made the film enjoyable, and if the entire movie consisted of them, I wouldn't complain. But then there is the unfortunate case of Keith Clayton, played by Jay R. Ferguson.
Keith is every bad boyfriend/ex from every story that calls for that sort of character, and they go to great lengths to portray this. You'll hate him as Beth's ex and Ben's father, and you're supposed to; but to the effort of Jay Ferguson, there are moments where you almost feel pity for him, which are quickly thrown aside as his very next comment is back to his douche-bag self. Yet the way the character is written makes it extremely one dimensional, where everyone else at least has some depth. And I find it tough to believe that Nicholas Sparks made such a shallow character, but I can't say I'm too familiar with his work.
Director Scott Hicks does the best he can with what he has; the visuals are great, and the story moves along at a decent pace, but you can only do so much when the story depth and chemistry between your leads just isn't there. At least I can say that, for the guys out there taking their wives, girlfriends, or dates to this movie, you should at least be amused during some of the film.