The Best of Me
by George Wolf
And lo, the decree came down from the mountain of recycled melodrama: more Sparks at the multiplex!
There will be an idyllic Southern setting surrounded by water and plenty of pretty white faces. There will be a love story, a couple brought together by destiny but pulled apart by a cruel world. Tragedy. Flashback. Kissing in the rain. Reunion. Then, a final plot twist so over the top and ridiculous it would get laughed out of most creative writing classes.
It’s the Nicholas Sparks formula, and he’s doing all the laughing, every time a truckload of cash backs up to his front door.
His latest novel to hit the big screen is The Best of Me, and it keeps the formula intact with nauseating precision.
Teenagers Amanda (Liana Liberato, spunky) and Dawson (Luke Bracey, bland) promised forever back in the 90s, but couldn’t make it past high school. Twenty years later, they’re brought back to their Louisiana hometown by the death of an old friend.
As the older Amanda and Dawson (Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden) struggle to put the past behind them, frequent flashbacks clue us in to the tragic circumstances that forced them apart.
It’s so much soap opera fodder, with cheap manipulation standing in for actual storytelling.
A look at the writing team responsible for the script reveals Will Fetters, who has not only penned one other awful Sparks adaptation (The Lucky One), but another film that’s even more shamelessly heavy-handed (Remember Me). Hey, they needed a writer who could provide that Nicholas Sparks feeling and apparently, this guy has it in spades.
Director Michael Hoffman (The Last Station/Soapdish) makes sure everything looks dreamily perfect and really, that’s all he was hired to do. There’s a good reason this isn’t a Coen brothers project, after all. The goal is style over substance, and to make a Sparks movie, not a good movie.
Well done, then.