THE LONGEST RIDE
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Cast: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda, Melissa Benoist, Lolita Davidovich
MPAA Rating: (for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action)
Running Time: 2:08
Release Date: 4/10/15
Review by Mark Dujsik | April 9, 2015
Two love stories unfold in The Longest Ride. These are stories of people from two different worlds who connect over, well, something and who have problems because of, well, something else. There's a couple from the 1940s, whose story is told through a series of letters, and there's the present-day couple, who find some kind of inspiration within the story of the couple from the past while never taking any of the lessons of that story to heart. In the present-day couple's defense, that's primarily because the story of the past has little to do with their own situation, and that's the third or fourth reason why the movie feels like a hollow exercise in, well, something that has to do with the power of love and other such generically romantic claptrap.
This is the latest cinematic adaptation of a novel by Nicholas Sparks, a writer who—based on the movies of his written work—seems perfectly content with mixing and matching a collection of four or five broad ideas and creating repetitive stories of romantic drivel. This one feels particularly superfluous, although that's not so much due to familiarity as it is because of a genuine lack of commitment. No one here seems to buy into these stories individually, and they certainly don't convince us that the pairing together of these tales means a thing.
Both stories are weak—and not just in the circumstances-over-character way of the Sparks universe. There's little to-do here, and there's even less for the characters to do. Joining these two cross-generational yarns together ends up feeling like a way to add more business to two separate stories that can't stand on their own.
The first involves Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), a college student in North Carolina who's about to graduate and start an unpaid internship at a prestigious art gallery in New York City, and Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood), a professional bull-rider who is mounting a comeback a year after suffering a debilitating injury. The screenplay by Craig Bolotin tries to play up some kind of mystery in regards to the specific details of Luke's injury, which is as a silly in terms of creating tension as one would expect from the lost cause of trying to hide that a wild bull might have caused a person severe physical trauma.
They go out on a date, which goes well. Sophia tells Luke that she doesn't want to start anything serious since she's leaving the state in two months, and on the way home, Luke spots a car accident. The driver is Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), whose only concern is for a box of letters in the car. Sophia waits at the hospital for the old man to regain consciousness, and she offers to read him the letters, which document the relationship between his younger self (Jack Huston) and Ruth (Oona Chaplin).
The only thing connecting these two stories is that they are both romances featuring complications that are solved rather quickly and with little fuss. The younger Ira goes off to fight in World War II and returns with an injury that leaves him sterile. Ruth wants a large family, given that she's a Jewish refugee from Austria who feels that she is responsible for bringing more life into the world after so much death. They're separated for a brief period, but the power of their love brings them together, until the lack of family becomes a problem that is simply resolved because of, again, the power of their love.
Despite her concerns, Sophia and Luke start a romance filled with long stares, plenty of rolling around in the sack, and some horseback-riding on his family ranch. There's some conflict in the inevitability of her leaving and, eventually, in her disapproval of his bull-riding after she learns the details of his previous injury. Again, none of the conflict matters too much, because it simply resolves itself without any effort on the part of any of the characters. It is strange, though, that the older Ira offers the lesson that "Love requires sacrifice—always," while it's only the woman in each of the stories who has to sacrifice what she wants in order for the romance to have a chance.
Superficial external conflict can be obnoxious, but we almost start to hope for it here. This is passionless affair, and that quality extends to the actors, all of whom are playing at love and affection on their own but never quite seem to have any real connection to their respective partner. The Longest Ride simply spins its wheels until a nice and tidy conclusion that wholly contradicts every lesson about love that the movie preaches.
Copyright © 2015 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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