Films based on books by Nicholas Sparks usually have the same effect on us. It is going to get emotional. Tears are probably going to be shed and fires will spark between partners.
But, just because they tug on our heartstrings does not mean they are masterpieces.
“The Best of Me” (Rated PG-13; 117 min) is a slightly enjoyable, but extremely flawed movie.
“The Best of Me” is a romantic adaptation directed by Michael Hoffman and stars Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
It has been 21 years since Dawson Cole (Marsden) and Amanda Collier (Monaghan) last saw each other. At one time, they were high school sweethearts. Now, they live two very different lives. A tragedy brings both back to their hometown where their paths cross again. Old memories return and both remember their love. But from there, neither knows where to go.
Does Amanda forgo the life she has built? Can Dawson live a life without Amanda?
This movie should not have been enjoyable. It should have been what everyone expected and nothing more, just another Sparks adaptation. And for the most part, it is.
The problem with Sparks’ adaptations rarely falls on the filmmakers, but the source material. Sparks creates the same story. Every novel is virtually identical to the last. There are some differences, but they are subtle.
It is like someone spins a wheel full of formulaic romantic storylines. Wherever the needle stops becomes the plot for the book. Or there is the more realistic idea being Sparks is just unoriginal.
Either way, this film suffers from this inauthentic quality. Its male character is from the wrong upbringing and the female character is upper class. Her parents are dismissive of him, no matter how good of a person he is. Might as well throw a jealous husband into the mix too.
Although the film is unoriginal and predictable, there were instances of satisfaction.
The acting goes a long way to save this movie. Smaller storylines like Cole’s relationship with an adopted father and Collier’s life-changing tragedy are major emotional points in the film.
The storylines in general are nothing new, especially the misunderstood character finding refuge with an adopted father. That is somewhat cliché at this point and an easy way to express the emotional pain a character is going through.
In this movie it does not matter how cliché or contrived the storyline seems—the actors make it different. There are moments when the film captures you, even if just for a second.
The couple’s chemistry together is fantastic, which is a miracle when one analyzes how the story is structured. The couple’s story is told through four actors. Marsden and Monaghan playing the older versions of the leads and Bracey and Liberato playing the younger versions.
While this could cause problems for many, it is the most engaging aspect of the film. Each pair makes the relationship something of their own, while keeping in touch with the other.
The relationships do not seem real exactly, no matter how well they work. This is not a problem of the actors, but more of the story. It would be more accurate to say that the relationships seem real within this terrible version of the world the film portrays.
If you are looking for a little romance in your life, you could do a lot worse than “Best of Me.”
Stars: 2.5 out of 5
Jacob Pierce can be reached at , on Twitter @JacobPierce1_DE or at 536-3311 ext.273