Film Review: The Longest Ride

I’ve never read a Nicholas Sparks novel, I don’t even think I’ve seen a film adaptation of his work and if I’m honest I slightly wish that I could still say that is the case. Unfortunately, his latest cinematic offering – The Longest Ride – while not looking overly impressive didn’t appear too bad either and with Meercats, cheap day ticket offers and my Mother meandering towards wanting to see it, a combined trip to the cinema of less than £10 seemed a reduced enough risk to take to finally take the plunge into the world of Nicholas Sparks.

Sparks writes romantic dramas, but according to a few critics, he actually writes the same drama over and over again. The romance of a girl, meeting a boy, from opposing lives; falling in love falling out of love, before the epiphany and realisation of the fundamentals of true love whilst, apparently, someone always dies. The End. You just have to look at the film posters for the novels brought to life to see the standard theme of a boy and girl kissing in front of a golden sunset to know exactly what I’m on about. And The Longest Ride continues that trend without error.

Alan Alda (Hawkeye Pierce) - M*A*S*H*

As I said at the start, I really do wish right now that I hadn’t bothered with The Longest Ride – cheap tickets or not – because it’s rubbish. But even worse, it manages to be completely pointless while at the same time being completely inoffensive. As a film, it leaves you with not reason to hate it but also nothing to like it either. It’s like a pair of socks or a cloud in the sky, your life can function as equally well with or without it.

Before I’d seen the film my biggest worry was the casting of Alan Alda. I am a huge fan of M*A*S*H* and as a result Alda is a face, a voice and a personality pigeon-holed forever into the role of Hawkeye. I find him virtually possible to watch or accept in, or as, anything else. I could just see the film being destroyed by my inability, especially as the film jumps through time to show Alda’s character Ira in both old (Alda) and Young (Jack Huston) versions. I already know exactly how a young Alda should look and feared for the film as a result, expecting to withdraw instantly from it. But I didn’t. While the issue was clear in my mind at the start, as the film progressed I completely forgot, mainly due to the fact that I was too mentally numbed by the story and the implausible stupidity of it all to really care.

The story just doesn’t work. Firstly it’s arrogantly optimistic. Life just doesn’t happen the way it’s shown. The film treats you visually to every stereotype it could think of. Sadness is portrayed with rain to such an extent that it’s embarrassing, University girls walk around in fluffy pink clothing with manicured nails and perfectly straight hair, whilst all cowboys drive a pick up, wear stone washed jeans and have impeccable manners. Really, the visual nicety of this film is enough to make you feel nauseas.

Oona Chaplin & Jack Huston - The Longest Ride

Even worse than how the characters are presented is the lives they lead. The story hinges on the love letters written from Alda’s character to his wife. But they are so formal they are impossible to accept. The story is narrated by almost itemised bullet points of their daily lives, before being signed as though closing a letter to his bank manager and then posted. It’s stupid. Really. It was enough to make hate a movie that already didn’t keep my interest.

Everything in this film just adds together to turn you off, yet nothing is offensive enough to make you hate it. It’s does nothing wrong apart from being so far removed from any version of real life that it’s impossible to accept, buy into or enjoy. And the fact that you sit outside it’s world, it can never move you either. It physically cannot connect emotionally, but it knows this and as a result it never even attempts to bond with you. You can’t even like the characters. They cannot exist and so you cannot accept, feel or understand them, or even relate to their lives. People don’t have the luck they do, or fit the the perfectionism in their story. The Longest Ride doesn’t ignore but rather never acknowledges that there are realities of life that may not always go your way. And when for a fleeting second it pretended it might, it chickened out and spun the story back into it’s world of happiness. Good comes of everything.

Britt Robertson & Scott Eastwood - The Longest Ride

It’s just too happy and organised and I ended up completely numb towards it’s story as a result. Too fictional to draw me in. So I lay everything onto the cast. I can accept an implausible story if it’s portrayed with belief, but once again The Longest Ride falls flat. Firstly Britt Robertson as Sophia while totally unrecognisable from her performance in Tomorrowland, is just too sugar, spice and all things nice and I just ended feeling that she was nothing more than a parody of innocence personified. While Scott Eastwood as Luke Collins just constantly looks shocked. He’s not wooden, he’s just amazed. He brings one expression to the screen: that of a rabbit caught in the head lights. The honesty of his eyes completely at odds to the personality of his character. Lastly, though, is Ruth – Alda’s on screen wife shown mainly in her younger years and played by Oona Chaplin. She just left me feeling uneasy. Her eyes and expressions always distracted for some reason. I never trusted her, never accepted her and this visual nervousness completely destroyed the fact that the character actually felt like the only one to have any sense of depth. She felt like the only character to be intriguing and that just put here completely out of place in the film because she didn’t fit with the tone and style of the others.

I was stunned more than anything by The Longest Ride, because as I said, it’s impossible to hate it even though it’s impossibly flawed and disgustingly romantic. A rather impressive trick to pull off. I think I know why it manages this though – I switched off so badly that I just stopped caring. I gave up on it and even though it’s a long film – over 2 hours – I dropped into such a state of malaise that even its length drifted nonchalantly by. It’s a paint by numbers movie that ends up offering absolutely nothing of interest and as a result, expertly reaffirms how unimaginative some stories can be.

4 out of 10 stars (4 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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