Saturday, 14 April 2012
FILM REVIEW: THE LUCKY ONE
Arguably, the worst sin any film can commit is to be boring; dull, uninteresting, snooze-inducing. Plenty of films are predictable, and fewer and fewer are original, but so long as they are engaging (or attempt to be) than predictability can be overlooked.
The Lucky One is based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, a one-man money-making machine whose raison d'etre is love stories; predictable, tear-wringing love stories. The outcome of these romances (which include the films A Walk To Remember (2002) and The Notebook (2004)) are almost never in doubt, and so it is with The Lucky One.
But it's the getting there in Scott Hicks' film, adapted by Will Fetter, which is the problem: the film, the story, the characters and the execution are all deadly dull. I complained earlier this year that The Vow, starring Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum, was a romantic drama which was lacking in both those descriptors; comparatively, The Lucky One makes The Vow look like The English Patient.
Opening in Iraq, US Marine, Logan (Zac Efron), is undertaking his third tour of duty when he survives a bomb blast just moments are finding a photo of a woman, inscribed 'stay safe', amidst the rubble of a raid carried out the night before.
Logan assumes his survival was a result of the photo, a good luck charm which is ironic since a lot of people end up dead around Logan; he survives another attack mid-flight before he's shipped home.
Those scenes in Iraq aren't quite Hurt Locker-calibre but they're as energetic and lively as The Lucky One gets. Upon returning to the US, Logan goes in search of the woman in the photo, and it's a downhill run to schmaltz and boredom from then on in.
The woman is Beth (Taylor Schilling), a divorced single mum operating a boarding kennel with her grandmother, Ellie (Blythe Danner), and her young son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), in North Carolina. Logan arrives and accepts employment as a kennel hand (the next 15 minutes of the film is a series of musical montages best described as 'music to walk dogs to'), unable to explain his mission to find and thank her.
Of course the battle weary Logan and the battle-scarred Beth (her brother was killed in action in Iraq but the US military has been unable to explain how) will fall into each others' arms, no spoilers there. The only obstacle to their love: Logan's reason for being there, and Beth's ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson).
Keith, apart from being the town sheriff, is also a jealous son of a bitch with anger management issues and an inability to let go and move on. He's not about to let some blow-in come to town and make his ex-wife and young son happy, logic be damned. The character of Keith is so wicked that [Spoiler Alert] a (cubby)house literally falls on him. Ding dong, indeed.
The most disappointing aspect of The Lucky One is the involvement of Scott Hicks. The Australian director made such a spectacular feature film debut in 1996 with Shine, which wowed critics and audiences worldwide, scored Oscar nominations for Best Picture and Director, and effectively launched Geoffrey Rush's international film career.
Sadly since then, Hicks' directorial output has been varied: the beautiful but remote Snow Falling On Cedars (1999), Hearts In Atlantis (2001), and No Reservations (2007); his return home to direct The Boys Are Back (2009), the closest Hicks has come to directing a satisfying film.
Here's hoping Hicks' pay cheque for The Lucky One enables him to work on a more personal project, one which doesn't come with a built-in formula as successful as it is boring.