Tag Archives: Nicholas Sparks

29 and Holding

The Age of Adaline

by Hope Madden

An impeccably dressed Nicholas Sparks rip off, The Age of Adaline follows a woman trapped forever at the age of 29. Vampire? If only!

No, Adaline Bowman (Blake Lively) is victim of cosmic forces and bad driving, rendering her ageless – as explained to us by the Twilight Zone-style voiceover.

Voiceover narration is the single laziest storytelling crutch in screenwriting, by the way.

Then the world changes around Adaline, but the classy lady leads a mostly solitary life, always afraid to let someone in on her secret. Or is she just a commitment phobe?

Lively impressed in her turn in Ben Affleck’s The Town (2010), but hasn’t shown a glimmer of that ability since. Here she’s suitably proper, timelessly classy. You might even mistake this for a strong performance until she shares the screen with the great Ellen Burstyn, playing Adaline’s aging daughter Flemming. Performing together, it’s clear one of these people is acting while the other is posing.

Give her credit, Lively poses well and director Lee Toland Krieger knows how to frame her while she does it. His whole film is as pretty as Adaline, and also like her, it’s surprisingly restrained. Though it certainly splashes the same emotional manipulation onscreen you’d expect from a romantic drama of the Sparks ilk, it doesn’t wallow.

The crisis Adaline faces is true love. Of course it is. Can she tell new unabashedly perfect beau Ellis (Michiel Huisman) of her unusual ailment? What about those shadowy, lurking government types who want to test her or take samples or something?

Thank God for Harrison Ford, who jumps in with an admirable attempt to salvage the star crossed lovers’ drama. He struggles with this dialog, and when was the last time you saw a well-rounded male character in a Sparks-esque romance? Still, he does what he can and is a very welcome presence.

The film is co-written by J. Mills Goodloe, co-scriptor of Sparks’s organ transplant love affair The Best of Me. This is better than that, so congratulations Mr. Goodloe.

The film will find an audience. It’s pretty, and capably made for emotionally manipulative romance. But you should see Ex Machina instead.

Hopeless Romantic


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.