Movie review: ‘The Longest Ride’
THE LONGEST RIDE
Directed by George Tillman Jr.
Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, John Huston, Oona Chaplin
Rated PG-13, Drama, 139 minutes
The Nicholas Sparks formula calls for a pair of beautiful young lovers to face difficult (though not insurmountable) circumstances on their way to finding true bliss. In the case of “The Longest Ride,” seemingly the umpteenth film adapted from a Sparks novel, true bliss feels artificial for two reasons: The four romantic leads are poorly fleshed out, and the important aspects of their “different worlds” barely register as meaningful. Sparks’ fans likely won’t care.
Played by Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood, Sophia and Luke make a cute couple destined, with a bit of incredibly fortunate help, to make their romance work.
In two months Sophia graduates with an art history degree (then begins a coveted Manhattan gallery internship) and reluctantly agrees to attend a bull-riding competition with her sorority sisters.
During his ride, world-championship contender Luke (Scott Eastwood) loses his cowboy hat. It practically flies into Sophia’s lap, and true love is born. He’s a hunk, and why shouldn’t he be? Scott bears an uncanny resemblance to handsome dad Clint Eastwood.
Luke proves to be quite the Lothario, inviting Sophia for a picnic date at a nearby North Carolina lake.
He thoughtfully brings a pair of Adirondack chairs from where the seated couple may watch the sunset while holding hands.
Despite his thoughtfulness and hunky appearance, Sophia confesses she can’t afford the distraction from her upcoming move to Manhattan by engaging in a romance. Luke is disappointed but accepts the news gracefully.
Then, while driving Sophia home, Luke spots a burning, wrecked car and stops to rescue its driver, an elderly man,
Ira, played by Alan Alda. At the man’s request Sophia retrieves a box from the passenger seat — mere moments before the car is completely engulfed in flames.
Still unconvinced a romance with Luke is worth pursuing, Sophia stays at the hospital to see how Ira fares. She peeks in the box and finds it full of the old man’s love letters. Soon recovered sufficiently for visitors, Ira asks her to read aloud one of the letters from 1941. The film seems unconcerned that this date designates Ira’s age as over 100, although he appears to be a spry 80. In the letters Ira recounts the events and his feelings about his great romance with Ruth — along with the trials they endured (seen in flashback, young Ruth is played by Oona Chaplin, granddaughter of Charlie, while young Ira is played by Jack Huston, grandson of director John Huston).
Ruth, a knowledgeable art fancier like Sophia, inspired Ira to collect the art she loved, works painted by up-and-coming artists.
Day after day, Sophia makes time to read Ira’s letters to him, and in so doing begins to reevaluate her potential romance with Luke.
Naturally, immaturity will drive a wedge between the young couple, but Ira’s experiences suggest love merits any sacrifice it demands.
So little actually happens in this talkie movie that we have plenty of time to figure out how Ira, and his art collection, will aid the troubled young romance. Yes, Virginia, there really is a fairy godfather.
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