The Longest Ride June 17, 2015 THE LONGEST RIDE (USA/12A/139 min) Directed by George Tillman Jr. Starring Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin. THE PLOT: On their first date, college student Sophia (Britt Robertson) and bull rider Luke (Scott Eastwood) rescue an elderly man from a car crash. Sophia befriends Ira (Alan Alda) and, through reading old letters aloud to him, learns of his relationship with Ruth (Oona Chaplin) and finds a way to make her relationship with Luke work. THE VERDICT: Britt Robertson does a fine job of playing headstrong city girl, and Luke Eastwood treads the line between Southern charm and misogyny very carefully. Both are fine in their roles and they are fine together on screen; the chemistry is not crackling, but they at least look as though they could stand to be in the same room as one another. Alan Alda brings a little gravitas to a film that desperately needs it, but is never really given a chance to be anything other than a vehicle for the story – as opposed to a fully rounded character. The rest of the cast is made up of Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston and Melissa Benoist. Craig Bolotin adapted Sparks’ book for the big screen, and has created a film with two love stories, neither of which is particularly interesting. As always with a Sparks story, there is a star crossed couple who are fighting to be together, and this time, there is another one in the past, and the two stories intertwine. Both are highly melodramatic when there is no need for it, and neither one is particularly satisfying. The script is filled with cliché and exposition, and the box of letters written by Ira to his wife make little to no sense, since he is writing to her about the time they spent together, days after the events. OK, I can accept the story needed to be told for Sophia and Luke’s benefit, but there is no explanation as to why Ira does this weird journaling experiment. As director, George Tillman Jr. – who previously brought us the Biggie Smalls story NOTORIOUS – plays up the melodrama and the overblown romances, and never really gives the characters the chance to be anything close to fully rounded or realised. As well as this, there are some heavy-handed music choices that seem to be used to substitute for emotion on screen, or to hammer it home. In all, THE LONGEST RIDE is far too long, overblown and heavy handed. Two romantic stories are shoehorned in, but neither one is particularly engaging, although both are melodramatic. If you’ve seen THE NOTEBOOK, SAFE HAVEN, or any of the Nicholas Sparks adaptations that have made it to the big screen, then you know what’s in store here. RATING: 1/5 Review by Brogen Hayes The Longest RideReview by Brogen Hayes2015-06-171.0Overblown & sentimental emerb “The Longest Ride” is the latest adaptation of one of Nicholas Sparks’ romantic novels. It is an epic drama that interweaves two love stories which must overcome obstacles in two very different eras and it is definitely one of the more competent Sparks movies in years. The present day romance involves an upwardly mobile sorority girl Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) who aspires to be an art curator and a rodeo boy Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood). This pair of star-crossed lovers find themselves confronted by challenges and sacrifices of love. Luke is a champion bull rider whose career gets sidetracked after a harrowing accident. One year later, he attempts to mount a comeback and quickly catches the eyes of a college senior – Sophia – who was dragged there by her sorority sisters. However, they come from different worlds – he is a simple country boy whose life is on the ranch and in the rodeo circuit while she is a New Jersey girl just a few months from starting an internship in New York. Despite the initial reluctance, she succumbs to his charms. One night, while driving home from a date, they spot a car that drove off the road. The driver Ira (Alan Alda) had a heart attack while driving and Luke carries him to safety, while Sophia rescues a box on the passenger side that contains decades’ worth of Ira’s letters to his late wife. To help him recover, Sophia reads the correspondence aloud to him, while he is in hospital. This leads to a second, parallel love story told in period-piece flashbacks during the early 1940s. Around the start of World War II, Ira (played as a young man by Jack Huston) falls for Ruth (Oona Chaplin), a beautiful and fiesty Jewish refugee from Austria who longs for a large family and a life full of art. That dream is put on hold by the war, and when Ira returns from battle, he’s a changed man and now incapable of fathering children. This puts a severe strain on their relationship and the closest they come to parenthood is briefly raising one of her students, which ends with heartbreak. To say more would be to spoil the movie but suffice it is to say the ending will not disappoint. Robertson and Eastwood have good chemistry and are at ease together which holds the love story together and makes their connection feels real. In some ways, it’s just too perfect! She is the plucky go getter while he is the heartthrob blonde gent – bringing flowers, buying drinks and opening doors. Eastwood is the son of Clint and it’s his first significant starring role, but he’s not the only big name on the cast. Huston is the grandson of John and Chaplin is the granddaughter of Charlie. Both of these remarkable actors certainly bring their love story to life. Many people tease Nicholas Sparks movies but yet he has a string of profitable movies to his name so he is obviously appealing to many and I admit that I’m one of those! I like that there is a common theme running through his movies. The core of each story is life, love and a genuine concern for each other’s happiness. Sacrifice is central to both love stories here too – Ira cannot pressure Ruth into a life without children and Luke cannot ask Sophia to abandon her career. For me, the story of Ira and Ruth overshadowed the present day romance. It felt more real, the conflicts were deeper and there was more at stake, they had to contend with the war and the inability to have a family. “The Longest Ride” is exactly what you expect but it’s well executed and with very solid performances, some nice period detail and gorgeous photography, fans of Sparks will most certainly come away satisfied, I did. filmbuff2011 The Longest Ride is Nicholas Sparks adaptation no. 10 and things have got steadily worse in the production department. Yet Hollywood keeps churning them out like a girly anti-dote to superhero movies. The Longest Ride is even less memorable than the last one, The Best Of Me. NYC girl Sophia (Britt Robertson) takes a temporary scholarship in North Carolina. There she meets rough-edged but gentlemanly rodeo rider Luke (Scott Eastwood). They have an instant attraction (obviously), but initially Sophia holds off on getting involved as she’s due to return to the Big Apple in 2 months. She eventually succumbs to his charms and goes on a date with him. On the way back, they encounter a crashed car and an injured occupant – an old-timer and former artist called Ira (Alan Alda). Ira’s own sad story of his relationship with his late wife during wartime becomes the focus point to draw Sophia and Luke gradually together. Even though they’re from very different worlds, maybe they can find a way to still be together. Love requires sacrifice, says Ira. How much though? You know what you’re going to get with a Sparks adaptation – a connection of the past with the present, a tentative love story that has to overcome certain hurdles, flawed characters who want to do the right thing. Unfortunately, director George Tillman Junior mistakes sincerity with over-earnest cheesiness. Take the scene when the young Ira (Jack Huston) first lays eyes on his future wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin). It’s pure cheese, the kind of love at first sight movie nonsense that gives Sparks a bad name. The sequences in the past don’t really work, with some serious overacting on Chaplin’s part. In the present day, Eastwood is a chip off his old man Clint’s shoulder. He has that same rugged charm and slightly dangerous edge to him. Robertson doesn’t fare so well though. After her charming turn in Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, this is strictly a one-note role for her that she’d most likely rather forget about. Reliable Alda at least brings some genuine emotion – he’s far better than this film deserves. Sadly, once again 20th Century Fox has chosen to cut a film to get a lower 12A certificate. A dumb decision, as would The Longest Ride even be of interest to a 12-year-old? Anyway, the offending scene can be briefly glimpsed in the trailer (there’s a clumsy edit to try and hide it in the film). The Longest Ride’s only real saving graces are Eastwood and Alda, who just about make it watchable. Other than that, this is mushy nonsense that should just skip cinemas and go direct-to-DVD. ** emerb Am I really the only person who loved this movie?!!