Nicholas Sparks films have almost created their own subgenre of movies at this point, in which two ridiculously good looking people meet in the ridiculously gorgeous North Carolina, to overcome some sort of obstacle to be together only to have a tragic death take place. Sometimes it’s one of the leads (“A Walk to Remember”), sometimes both (“The Notebook”), sometimes someone else entirely. Well you have to create tension somehow. Which character will it be? You can however, usually tell which character it will be within the first half an hour, and then the film takes on an almost “Final Destination” joy in trying to guess how that character will bite it.
Or maybe that’s just me.
“The Lucky One”, directed by Australian Scott Hicks (“Shine”), follows this formula to a tee, and if you love Nicholas Sparks films, and Zac Efron, who plays a Marine called Logan, freshly traumatised from three tours of Iraq, you will enjoy this offering as well. The story centres on Logan’s journey to North Carolina (of course), to find the mysterious women who is in a photograph he finds in the middle of a war zone that indirectly ends up saving his life, making him believe it to be his lucky charm. It doesn’t help that she’s a hot blonde, I’m sure.
The good: The film opens with Logan in Iraq, and the filming here is quite incredible. While it only lingers there long enough to see some horrific gun fights and explosions, and for Logan to find his “lucky charm” , it sets the scene nicely and really establishes the character of Logan and what he has been through. Zac Efron embodies the role of a manly Marine is an authentic and believable way, he walks the walk the of a soldier, sleeps the sleep of a man disturbed, and, of course, has the body that could lift a small vehicle. He doesn’t, but you know he could if he wanted to. The beauty of the filming continues throughout the film, with the kind of scenery and idyllic small town set up you didn’t know could exist in modern day. They have cars and cell phones (I assume) and that’s about it. The chemistry between Logan and Beth (Taylor Schilling), the woman in the photograph is great, Jay R Ferguson brings alive an otherwise quite two dimensional cut out of Beth’s menacing ex husband and father of her child, and Blythe Danner provides many laughs as Beth’s awesome grandmother Ellie.
One other real standout is the character and performance of Beth’s son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), who is the typical sensitive and smart child, but while these precocious kids are usually annoying and unbelievable, Ben is really quite sweet, and there is a scene with he shares with Logan playing the violin at church that is really quite affecting.
The bad: The montages begin as soon as Logan enters North Carolina and into Beth’s life, and they hang around for a good portion of the film, skipping through character development instead of showing it. The music is a bit overwhelming in its cheesiness at some points, and the entire third act seems a little rushed, jumping from point to dramatic point without really building up the tension in a satisfying way. Zac Efron is also such a naturally charming actor, it is a shame that the character of Logan doesn’t call for this except in short bursts. You can almost see him trying so hard to contain it.
“The Lucky One” provides you with everything you would expect from a tragi-romance film, and Zac Efron proves himself as a leading man when it seems Hollywood is quite short on them at the moment. You won’t need tissues as much for this Nicholas Sparks film, whether that is a good or a bad thing is really up to your preference for public crying.