Title: The Lucky One
Genre: Drama, Romance
Director: Scott Hicks
Screenwriters: Will Fetters
Starring: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner
Nicholas Sparks destroys everything. Scott Hicks is a real filmmaker, and no one can blame him for not taking a shot at salvaging something from the typically turgid and idiotic sap bucket that is The Lucky One, but the material defeats him handily. Hicks approaches the film with his typical lyrical elegance and even, at first, some impressive attempts at narrative economy. It’s no use. Every single moment of this romance between a PTSD-addled Marine (Zac Efron) and an adorable single mom with an abusive ex-husband (Taylor Schilling) rings so glaringly false that it’s impossible to believe that anyone who’s ever picked up a book would fall for this crap. At least Twilight has vampires, and some subtext.
The bill of goods Sparks is trying to sell here is that the titular soldier finds a picture of a pretty lady in some rubble in Afghanistan, thereafter survives a series of close calls and, upon returning to the states, walks (yes!) from Colorado to Louisiana to find her. When he does, and learns that the photo belonged to the woman’s now-deceased brother, he doesn’t tell her why he’s there (and she doesn’t ask), instead initiating a romance with her and a friendship with her young boy. Meanwhile, her ridiculous asshole of an ex-husband lurks menacingly and threatens to take her kid away for no plausible reason at all.
Put aside the inherent stupidity of all this and consider what a dramatic black hole it is. The set-up takes about twenty minutes, after which we are waiting for precisely three things: (1) the sex scene; (2) the fight scene between the Marine and the ex-husband; and (3) the scene where she finds out about the photo and confronts him tearfully. It takes over an hour of clunky dialogue and endless golden sunsets and nothing else whatsoever to get to these meager payoffs. It doesn’t help that Schilling and Efron are a far cry from The Notebook’s Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling; Efron, in particular, has grown up to have Keanu Reeves’ vacant good looks, without the latter’s shred of an oddball personality.
I’m also kind of offended at Sparks’ appropriation of PTSD and the military experience in Afghanistan for his latest moronic wish-fulfillment fantasy. Can’t he write the same damn book over and over without bringing in gravely serious subject matter that many people want to see treated with some thoughtfulness and dignity? Two days before watching this movie, I re-watched Titanic, currently back on the big-screen, and saw how this sort of thing is supposed to be done. The Lucky One seems so feeble, so miserable in comparison.
— Eugene Novikov