The Best of Me

The Nicholas Sparks Casserole: Two extremely attractive leads, a dash of tragedy and about 100 gallons of sticky, sweet syrup. Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato star in The Best of Me.

The Best of MeCast of Characters:
Amanda Collier – Michelle Monaghan
Dawson Cole – James Marsden
Young Dawson – Luke Bracey
Young Amanda – Liana Liberato
Evelyn – Caroline Goodall
Tuck – Gerald McRaney

Director – Michael Hoffman
Screenplay – J. Mills Goodloe, Will Fetters & Michael Hoffman
Based on the novel The Best of Me by Nicholas Sparks
Producer – Denise Di Novi, Alison Greenspan, Nicholas Sparks, Ryan Kavanaugh & Theresa Park
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, some drug content and brief strong language

Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato) are two American kids growin’ up in the heartland. Suckin’ on a chili dog outside the tastee freeze while Amanda’s sittin’ on Dawson’s lap, he’s got his hands between her knees. Dawson say, “Hey, Amanda, let’s run off behind a shady tree. Dribble off those Bobby Brooks, let me do what I please.”

But then time goes on, they go they’re separate ways and twenty years later, long after the thrill of livin’ is gone, Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) meet by chance (of course, they do) and renew their relationship. However ’cause life’s a cruel bitch, Dawson finds out that Amanda is married and has a child.

For God’s sakes, Nicholas Sparks, grow a pair of balls and have the guy off himself with a gun or hang himself from depression over this. Anything to spice up what you’ve been doing for the past decade.

This is a Nicholas Sparks film, which means I’m willing to bet every paycheck of mine for the rest of this year and all of next that…

  • Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, but tragedy separated them for years and now she’s with another man, but hell with it, they’re falling back in love anyway and nobody can do a damn thing about it.
  • Every one in the town is either drug peddling white trash or so quaint you just wanna punch ’em in the face.
  • The young, starry-eyed couple passionately kiss in the rain
  • Musical montage depicting how gosh darn happy the couple is.
  • Don’t forget the big tragedy at the end that leads to an ooey-gooey, warm and fuzzy ending. Smart money’s on cancer, car accident, angry stalker ex returning to get revenge.
  • Julianne Hough talks to dead people. Seriously, Nick… what the fuck?

I seriously hope the rain gave those two pneumonia.

nicholas_sparksIs there really anything for me to say here? It’s the same formula, the same small-town rustic setting, the same cheesy, ’90 pop-alternative soundtrack, the same unnaturally attractive couple, pairing the “wrong side of the tracks” boy with the gorgeous, upper class girl, the same obnoxious, wealthy dickhead father of the girlfriend, the same self-absorbed douchebag husband she ended up settling for (the only way films like these can get a homewrecker like Amanda to cheat on her husband with her long lost love without judging her) the same overly weepy, sentimental ending, the same manipulative heartstring pulling – dammit, the same poster!!!!

You idiots forget how to kiss? Quit staring at each other longingly and lock lips already!!!!

As long as Nicholas Sparks is gonna skimp on any effort, I’m gonna keep hating his saccharine bull shit (The Notebook is the only tolerable film of is, solely ’cause of the cast). Yes, I know I’m not the target audience, but even you have to admit if Sparks is ever gonna really try or if he’s just gonna keep doing what he can to make the teenage girls cry?

When you think about, after nine movies, Sparks has abused and bullied more women than O. J. and Scott Peterson combined.

Too soon?

Just once, can I get a weepy chick flick that has just even the slightest bit of a genuine touch given to it? Maybe next time we can get a high school couple that, at best, is only marginally decent looking, their first time in bed isn’t like watching two steamy pros destined for a Danielle Steel cover, but is unbelievably awkward and uncomfortable to watch, and instead of separating them by distance, death or another lover, have them end up living apathetically ever after, bitching to one another every now and then about petty crap like who was supposed to pay the cable bill today.

Sure, you can bring up the escapist argument, but this doesn’t even work as an escapist romance ’cause director Michael Hoffman takes Sparks’s template – which is probably just a sheet of paper that says “MAKE AUDIENCE CRY AT THE END” – and pummels the audience into submission with a two-hour long sap-tastic, crap-tastic beatdown. No character development to make the emotion earned; in fact, why go for that when you can just have about fifty different shots of the sweaty boyfriend popping out of the car garage with the sun shining on his oil-stained, “working class hero” wife beater while his irritatingly precious girlfriend smiles back at him while lying in a field of roses, and call it good?

Believe me. There’s a lot I can take, but there comes a point where I just start rooting for the third-act tragedy to take one of them.

Honestly, though, not that I was looking forward to this, but a small part of me was thinking maybe this won’t be so horrible. Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough are in the past and now we get James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan, two very talented stars that don’t often get the right opportunities to showcase that talent. Unfortunately, that “right opportunity” has yet to show up again, ’cause even Marsden and Monaghan find themselves drowning in this overbearing muck. It doesn’t help any that Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato, playing the chemistry-less, younger versions of Dawson and Amanda, look absolutely nothing like Marsden and Monaghan, which wouldn’t have been a problem if it wasn’t so comically distracting.

Casting Aziz Ansari and Gabourey Sidibe instead would’ve been more believable.

In fairness, and ’cause we’re nearing that time of the year where I guess I’m supposed to be filled with the spirit of goodwill, Gerald McRaney provides some depth, to a film completely lacking in any of it, to the crotchety old father figure role. You can’t also deny the charming screen presences that Marsden and Monaghan have, but this material gives them zilch to work with.

It’s like cheaters. Once a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, always a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

Cloying, annoyingly sentimental and so sugary sweet I might’ve contracted diabetes, The Best of Me is just the same old song and dance from the world of Nicholas Sparks that will neither detract the faithful or convince the naysayers. There’s nothing remotely close to resembling any form of genuine heart or emotion; it’s all manipulation that requires a suspension of disbelief greater than Guardians of the Galaxy.

I give The Best of Me a D (★).

One thought on “The Best of Me

  1. Good review. It was the usual kind of Nicholas Sparks junk that we get. Except this time, with two more talented people getting thrown into the shameful spotlight.

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