Mark Reviews Movies

The Lucky One


1 ˝ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Scott Hicks

Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for some sexuality and violence)

Running Time: 1:41

Release Date: 4/20/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 19, 2012

Of all the possible climactic moments possible in a romantic melodrama about a former Marine suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder attempting to save a woman from her abusive ex-husband with the depth of his love, one would never in a million years expect the culmination of everything that precedes it to revolve around a rickety, old rope bridge. I'm usually pretty keen at picking up on the blatant foreshadowing of plot setups, but this one surprised me—not in a good way, mind you, but still. That the climax takes place in a miniature version of the old adventure-story standby only helps to make its existence in The Lucky One all the more perplexing.

At least it affords the movie the opportunity to give us something resembling actual conflict, no matter how far out of left field it might be. Until that sequence of men vs. nature, the screenplay by Will Fetters (based on a novel by that wellspring of idea Nicholas Sparks) certainly imagines it has conflict. The two romantic leads want so badly to be together but are kept apart by, well, nothing, really.

He has a pretty trivial secret that he so wants to tell her, but any time he's about to, she tells him not to worry about it. The ex-husband disapproves of this stranger in town with eyes for his former wife, and he threatens to take their son away from her if she and the outsider begin dating. His dad, after all, is a judge in town, which would be a threat if there were no lawyers in town to argue the obvious conflict of interest in such a case.

Everything is really just fine and dandy with this whole affair if one were to simply peel back the translucent veneer of phony conflict over the surface of the movie. The very large majority of what appears to be drama occurs simply because the character arbitrarily flip a switch between being outraged by and accepting the situation at hand.

Let's examine the ex-husband character for a moment in that context, since he really only exists in the story to function as a barricade (again, an easily bypassed one) between Logan (Zac Efron) and Beth (Taylor Schilling), the two inevitable lovers. His name is Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), a member of the local Sheriff's office, and he spends the large majority of the movie popping into scenes to throw a wrench in the budding romance between Beth, his ex-wife, and Logan, a veteran of the Iraq War, whom we know suffers from PTSD because the movie offers three short scenes displaying it. In some of the movie's more unintentionally funny moments, director Scott Hicks quickly cuts to Keith sitting in his car, staring with pent-up rage at places where Beth is—most of the time with Logan.

Keith is either menacing or foreshadowing danger in every scene in which he appears, save for one. In it, Keith watches his son (Riley Thomas Stewart) and Logan perform a violin/piano duet at the local church, and, as the performance progresses, he spots his ex-wife smiling. He sees his son come out of his shell, and he realizes that Logan has made all of this possible.

It's the most emotionally honest scene in a movie filled to the brim with corny dialogue ("You deserve to be kissed every day, every hour, every minute," a proposition that sounds not only familiar but also unsound) and people gazing with barely restrained adoration on their faces (Efron masters the long stare, that hollow look that implies he can see into the future but in practice looks as if he's looking over someone's shoulder, and Schilling, giving more of a pantomime of human emotion than a performance, has a scene in which Beth converts the chore of washing of a pot into an orgasmic event). The scene at the church treats Keith like a human being for once, but it's fleeting. Soon after, he's just a cog in the machine again—stalking and making a scene with a loaded pistol in public.

The undercurrent of the story of Logan and Beth is how Logan wants to thank her for being his lucky charm in Iraq. He found a photograph of her lying on the ground one day and survived the war mostly intact despite multiple close calls. As it turns out, the photo actually belonged to Beth's brother, who died in combat about a year ago. He's scared to tell her about the photograph. She doesn't really want to know why he's here, even though she's suspicious from the start. She just seems to flip a switch, and the problem no longer exists.

That is until it needs to later in the movie. The Lucky One is a melodrama of mandatory inconveniences between the talks of the convenience of fate and destiny. It at least has Beth's grandmother Ellie (Blythe Danner) on hand, who can cut through all their useless hesitation. If only they listened to her more often.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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