“The Lucky One”
In a Nicholas Sparks film brought to the
big screen (like “The Notebook”), you expect to see a schmaltzy romance,
with some little-kid-cuteness thrown in, some dreamy sequences of beautiful
landscapes, with bland orchestral accompaniments in the background, and a
predictable romantic ending about how true love overcomes all obstacles.
And “The Lucky One” delivers all that is expected of it.
But under veteran Director Scott Hicks (“Shine”), this film
doesn’t seem nearly as labored or formulaic as all that.
The casting works in its favor. And
the story, while thoroughly predictable, is at least fairly believable.
Logan (Zac Efron) is an American soldier
from Colorado serving in Afghanistan, who, after a couple of harrowing combat
experiences involving a night raid gone bad and being ambushed by armed
civilians during a house search, casually goes to pick up a shining object in
the rubble, which turns out to be a picture of a young woman, and on the back
it says “stay safe.” Not all that
remarkable. But suddenly a shell
explodes in the place where he was sitting before he got up to retrieve the
photo, and now he thinks of it as his good luck charm.
He asks around, later, but nobody he runs into knows anything about the
picture. After a couple more
becomes convinced that the “charm” saved him.
So when he finally gets discharged, he decides to go thank that pretty
lady, whoever she is, and having really nothing better to do, sets out to find
her. On foot.
It turns out she runs a dog-training
. She’d given the picture to her
brother, who’s officially listed as “missing in action.”
Beth (Taylor Schilling) is divorced, and a single Mom, but still lives
in the same small town where her bullying ex-husband, Keith (Jay R. Feguson)
is a deputy sheriff, and his father is a judge running for mayor.
Beth lives with her son, Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart), who plays the
violin and loves chess, and her Mom, Ellie (Blythe Danner), who also helps
around the kennel, and with Ben. Yes, Beth is coping all right, but is
definitely lonely, and Logan’s arrival stirs up long-dormant romantic
notions within her.
almost blows this, by not quite being able to tell her the truth about how he
stumbled here in the first place. He
says he “can’t find the words,” though perhaps it was a better strategy
to claim awkwardness and reticence, later, rather than admitting stalking her
then wooing her and manipulating her emotions, and then being “discovered”
as someone in possession of that “lucky” photograph carried through combat
and across the ocean.
Yes, we all know where this is headed
before we even begin. And sure, we
figure there will be a few bumps along the way; otherwise there’s no drama
at all. But this is a winsome family
portrait, of a grandma (Ellie) who is wise without being smug, and a returning
soldier wrestling with his post-traumatic stress disorder by trying to live a
very simple life. They actually show a
“straight” church service with compelling music that feels like something
out of a Norman Rockwall painting. And
they handle the romance in such a way as to convince us of its genuine ardor
without degenerating into soft porn. The PG-13 rating indicates there’s none
of the “raunch humor” so prevalent in the “romantic comedies” now
rampant. This is just a straight
romance, “Hallmark Hall of Fame” with a little spice and seasoning,
clearly told and straightforwardly presented.
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,