WRITTEN BY: Will Fetters
DIRECTED BY: Scott Hicks
STARRING: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart
RATING: 3 stars
If you loved The Notebook, A Walk To Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Message In A Bottle, Dear John and The Last Song, chances are you'll enjoy The Lucky One. By no means is it the best adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but fans of his books and past film adaptations will still find some joy in watching The Lucky One. For everyone else, you can probably give it a miss, unless maybe you have a huge crush on Zac Efron, because this is by far his most "grown up" role.
Knowing Sparks' fans would be outraged if the film deviated too far from the novel, screen writer Will Fetters stays relatively true to the book. Marine Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) is fighting in Iraq when he sees a photograph of a young woman in some rubble. The time he takes to pick it up saves his life as an explosion goes off nearby. When he fails to find the owner of the photograph, Logan decides to carry it with him as a good luck charm. When Logan finishes his third tour of duty, he begins searching for the girl and finds Beth (Taylor Schilling) living with her grandmother (Blythe Danner) and young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Beth is a single mother grieving for her brother, who died mysteriously in Iraq. Logan struggles to explain his appearance on Beth's doorstep and instead begins working for her. But Beth's ex-husband Keith (Jay R. Ferguson), who is also a policeman, is suspicious of Logan and does not like Logan's influence on his family.
A major criticism I have of this film is that the characters are underdeveloped. I've read the book (I'm one of those obsessed Sparks fans) but I saw the film with people who had not read it and they were all left trying to understand the characters. The novel gives more detail about the characters' back stories and gives the story the depth it needs. Unfortunately, the film doesn't quite join all the dots so while the plot is essentially quite predictable, it's not as fulfilling as it should have been and was in the novel.
The performances in the film were also mixed. I was pleasantly surprised at how mature Efron has become in recent years. His character is broody but also a little too perfect. It seems like there's nothing he can’t do, except maybe beat a child at chess. Efron has come a long way as an actor but this film won't be the turning point in his career he probably hoped it would be. Efron's chemistry with Schilling is also hit and miss, which is a shame because their romance is the most important part of the film. In fact, Schilling was probably miscast in the role. Ferguson also seemed to be over-acting at times. However, Stewart was very cute as Ben and had some memorable scenes of humour and heart. Danner also steals a few scenes as the grandmother and provides lots of laughs.
Perhaps it's because I adore the book so much that I'm so critical of the film. Then again, perhaps I'm also kinder to the film because I like the book so much. In any case, The Lucky One is definitely a film for those inclined to enjoy sappy love stories. But I'd still suggest reading a Sparks novel instead.