After sitting through all of “The Lucky One,” I want my readers to explain something to me. I mean this in earnest, too, by the way. This isn’t me trolling or passive aggressively insulting anyone, I really would love to hear from my readers on this.
I want to know why women love to get suckered into sappy romances like the ones written by Nicholas Sparks (this movie is based on his novel of the same name).
Yes, I’ve heard it a dozen times before, about how it’s like wish fulfillment in the same way action movies are for guys. In a way I guess I can understand that. I mean, sure, what guy wouldn’t want to get into a really awesome car chase or a bank heist and shoot out or a fistfight on top of a speeding train. And equally so, it doesn’t take a genius to understand why a girl wouldn’t want to be swept up in some impossible romance.
It’s obvious that many of the women in the theater during my screening certainly were swept up. In fact, judging by the reactions of the women sitting directly behind me, you’d have thought this was a romantic masterpiece.
I still can’t figure out why, though. There’s just nothing there.
Zac Efron is Logan, a Marine finally returned home after three tours in Iraq. He almost didn’t make it, though after several close calls, including one from which he was saved thanks to a girl’s photo. Logan spots it amongst some rubble and almost as soon as he moves to pick it up, the spot where he was sitting is hit with mortar fire. Convinced he would be dead were it not for the photo, and with no one found to claim it, Logan is determined to locate the girl and thank her for “being a guardian angel.”
This eventually leads him to a tiny coastal Louisiana town where he finds Beth (Taylor Schilling), a single mother and owner of a dog kennel. Unable to properly express why he has sought her out, Beth mistakenly assumes Logan has shown up to fill the help wanted ad in the paper. Needing work (and not to mention a bit smitten at first sight), Logan plays along and quickly finds himself an indispensible presence around the place. Of course, this also means that Beth falls in love with Logan in spite of her own efforts otherwise. She’s still dealing with her alpha male ex-husband who does stereotypical macho things like insist his son play sports and make him feel bad for playing the violin.
It’s not the setup, though, that makes me confused as to why someone would swoon over this sort of story. I’d say there’s actually some decent mileage to be had in a story about a soldier trying to move past the hardships of war and finding a place where he feels he belongs and can exorcise the harrowing experiences he’s endured. Finding solace in a woman who’s lost a family member (Beth’s brother – with whom she was extremely close – was killed, allegedly by friendly fire) seems like a pretty natural step.
The problem is that there’s nothing between these two. Efron and Schilling share precisely zero chemistry. A relationship is only believable if there’s sparks between the two parties. A wet piece of flint has more sparks coming off of it than these two.
A big reason for this is Efron. I’ve defended Efron in the past. The guy was genuinely pretty good in “Me and Orson Welles” and tried his darnedest in the surprisingly weird “Charlie St. Cloud,” but there’s an emotional complexity to Logan that he goes for that the kid simply can’t pull off.
To his credit, you can practically see Efron straining to keep up. Logan wants to keep his emotions bottled up and buried deep and Efron desperately wants to go the subtle route of trying to emote only through his eyes and countenance while keeping his body language and face as restrained and stoic as possible. He fails miserably, unfortunately, and the result is a performance that comes across as straight up bland and lifeless.
It’s not just Efron that annoys me, though. It’s that director Scott Hicks goes to such horrible lengths to make the film’s visual palette as annoying as possible. Apparently, in whatever backwater Louisiana town they filmed, every hour of the day is that golden “magic hour.” It’s not that a lot of Hicks’ shots are poorly framed or composed, it’s just that they all look the same. It’s one of the most homogenous-looking films I’ve ever laid eyes on.
Whatever. It doesn’t matter. I’m obviously not the target demographic for this sort of stuff. But even if you, are I can’t imagine how you’d find it appealing given that it lacks any sort of a pulse.