The Longest Ride (2015)
Riddled with clichés or not, I still manage to eventually see the latest Nicholas Sparks productions. He had two in theaters this year alone, this is the first I’ve seen. That’s for two reasons, one being I actually read the book on which this is based. Without further ado, it’s time to find out how this one stacked up against some of my prior Sparks favorites.
One year ago, Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) nearly died. As a professional bull rider it’s not if you get hurt, it’s when. Tonight is his first night back on the rodeo scene and the stress of returning to the place he nearly died gets to him. But it’s on this night that he meets her...
Sophia (Britt Robertson) is a college senior whose sole goal is to graduate and jet off to New York for the promise of the prestigious job that awaits her. The only reason the New Jersey native is in North Carolina is thanks to her scholarship. But meeting Luke at the rodeo she was talked into attending might change things… especially after a spontaneous date. Then on their way back to Sophia’s dorm, the pair rescue an elderly man (Alan Alda) whose car broke through a guardrail and is about to burst into flames. Ira Levinson’s integration into Sophia’s life changes everything…
This is the one Sparks production I don’t necessarily like better than the novel. The film gets a lot right, but it also failed in one way (early on) that might not be the best mistake to make. Most of the cast is amazing! I liked Scott as Luke, and of course, his good looks match the image his character is supposed to have sway to. The rest of the cast is really quite well cast as well including Jack Hutton and Oona Chaplin (The Crimson Field) stepping into the shoes of the 1940’s love story we follow. But, I wasn’t 100% sold on Britt Robertson as the leading lady. Early on, she seems immature, whereas I never felt that in Book Sophia. As the film progresses, I liked her better and felt she kind of eased into the role, which is nice. Not to be forgotten, we also get a glimpse of what Melissa Benoist can do. She’s CBS’ new Supergirl of course.
BOOK REVIEW: The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks
As a love story, the novel also has an advantage in telling Luke and Sophia’s story. Their romance felt more “organic” and the pace was honest and true to who the characters were. Meaning, neither Luke nor Sophia were particularly irresponsible people, so how their story progressed was genuine, sweet and believable. The film rushes them a smidgeon. Considering its time constraints, this is understandable just not always respected. The greatest improvement is Ira’s entrance into Sophia’s life. His story is much improved on screen. Book Ira remembered everything while isolated on the side of the road, Movie Ira was able to spend time with people, not just his memories and the unpacking of his love story is much prettier because of this. The bond he has with Sophia is more what I anticipated of the book, so seeing someone take this tract (in scripting) with Ira’s story makes all the difference (especially where his pursuit of Ruth is concerned; it’s even sweeter). The shifting timelines and parallel stories work in perfect synchronization instead of against each other as a result of this.
Perhaps not my favorite adaptation of this NYT Best-selling author’s box office pictures, The Longest Ride was still enjoyable. The script softens Luke’s troubled home life, which is a pleasant change though it also fails to explain the driving reasons behind his pursuit of a career that could kill him, plus omits another pretty big arc from the novel. Scenery is gorgeous and the romance of the film as a whole is beautiful. Journeying through the lives of these characters shows us a lot of swoon-y moments and sweet encounters in turn. Flaws or no, I still liked this romantic drama. It’s quieter than I remember most of the prior Sparks adaptations, with an end result of a slow-moving story. I’ll certainly be re-watching this in time and found much “good” in its letter to the interested viewer. If you like these adaptations, I’d recommend you check it out. Sure, you’re likely to find faults – similar or differing from mine, but as an adaptation, overall, I think it ranks better than my impression of the novel. Considering the quibbles I had with the book, this is enough for me to have enjoyed seeing The Longest Ride quite a lot. Imperfect though it is, that’s part of what makes the story “real.”
(Content: there are two sex scenes, both feature removal of clothing and side nudity – the first involves the pair undressing and a shower. We see a full back shot of male nudity. There’s very little profanity, and what there is, is more of the garden variety. The film is rated PG13.)