It’s Nicholas Sparks Day! It’s Nicholas Sparks Day!
Yes, the wheel of seasons has turned and once more it’s time for a new movie based on the works of Nicholas Sparks. This weekend The Longest Ride, about a rodeo cowboy and a Wake Forest art historian, lopes into theaters. And you know what that means: reviews. I can practically hear the critics sharpening their knives. A.O. Scott of the New York Times, you go first:
Luckily, they meet Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), a widower whose chronicle of monogamous bliss is the mirror and prophecy of their own. As Ira recovers from a car accident, he reads from a collection of letters recounting his courtship and marriage. It’s not quite clear why he wrote so many letters to a woman he saw every day — letters that sometimes seem to narrate what they did together just a few hours before the time of composition — but it’s sweet that he saved them.
Was that a “bless your heart”? I think that was a “bless your heart.”
“The Longest Ride still qualifies as one of the best Sparks films by virtue of not including any love-ghosts or destructive misinformation about how Alzheimer’s works,” according to Jesse Hassenger at the A.V. Club. The Guardian opens by musing, “From an economics point of view, it makes sense. Why sit through only one boring melodrama when you can watch two for the same price?” The Wrap’s headline: “Scott Eastwood’s Abs Take Center Stage in Nicholas Sparks Adaptation.”
Says Scott Foundas at Variety: “As spring perennials go, a new Nicholas Sparks movie has come to seem as inevitable as tax day and allergy season, and only mildly less irritating to the senses.” He adds:
If “The Longest Ride” is partly Sparks’ tone-deaf valentine to God’s chosen people, it’s also a jeremiad of sorts against the big-city elites (including, no doubt, this very critic) whom he feels wield too much cultural influence in our country. Like Sophia, Ruth is an art aficionado, who compensates for her childless womb by amassing an enviable collection of contemporary masters (Matisse, Motherwell, Passlof, Rothko), much of it acquired from nearby Black Mountain College (a reminder that North Carolina has cutting-edge culture, too). But Sparks and the filmmakers can’t help taking a few cheap potshots at “squiggly lines on a canvas” and devising an art-auction climax that effectively says the sentimental value of a single unremarkable, representational canvas is worth more than all of the world’s abstract marvels combined.
But L.A. Weekly’s Amy Nicholson says fuck it, the cast is working overtime to charm your pants off so just go with it:
The structure is clunky. Retro sequences are launched by Sophia bursting into Ira’s bedroom after a fight with Luke and asking him to “take my mind off of it.” Still, a good romance can make us endure an implausible plot as long as the leads have heat. Luke and Sophia’s connection feels true. Who cares about the mechanics? By the time The Longest Ride runs right off a cliff, we’re already strapped in to the passenger seat. Give in and enjoy the plunge.
You almost convince me, Amy, but you see I don’t do very well with heights.