The Longest Ride

The part about this being the longest ride isn’t a joke. Celebrated (or despised, depending on who you ask) author Nicholas Sparks’ 10th film adaptation has the longest running time yet. With a steady box office decline after the unmatched success of The Notebook, Sparks adaptations have gone from all-star casts to Brit Robertson from Charlotte, North Carolina in the lead. The Longest Ride looks like a sappy romance film, desperate to revisit the days of successful bull riding films of the 90’s, but it’s actually a strategically executed attempt to make Clint Eastwood’s son a heartthrob movie star. Eastwood has done three surfing films, all of them bombed, so he is going to try things the old fashioned way with chest hair and a horse.
Her sorority sisters declare the best reason to attend rodeo are the hot guys. Sophia (Robertson) is finally coaxed into cowgirl boots, attending her first rodeo in Greensboro, North Carolina. It doesn’t take long for Sophia to lock eyes with state champion Luke Collins (Eastwood). He asks her on an old fashioned date complete with flowers, and a drive into the backwoods for a picnic by the lake. Sophia reveals she is leaving for New York in a few months for a job and it seems as if their romance is doomed before it begins. On the way back to cam pus, Luke heroically saves an old man who crashed his car off an embankment. Sophia gets to know this man whose story gives her the strength and inspiration to make the decision between career and love.

The camera spends more time on Eastwood’s body than it does making any of the motives in the story sensible.

Sparks films have officially ruined the flashback as far as I am concerned. The North Carolinian simply cannot complete a narrative without having two parallel stories in past and present. The camera spends more time on Eastwood’s body than it does making any of the motives in the story sensible. The bait and switch here is interesting, you think this is a story about a cowboy and city girl, but it’s the flashback story involving an injured war vet who can’t give his Austrian immigrant wife children that soaks up the majority of the screen time. The plot featuring sets of lovers trying to overcome mundane odds is beyond formulaic, its mind numbingly predictable.
If anyone remembers The Horse Whisperer from 1997, there is a scene where Robert Redford’s character explains to Kristen Scott Thomas that he was once married to a woman from Chicago, but it didn’t work out because she didn’t want to be a ranchers wife and he unable to live in a city without open spaces. The Longest Ride could almost serve as a prequel to that film and those characters with the classic story it tells. It’s directed lifelessly by George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) with no attempt to make this a better than average Sparks adaptation. The highlight of the film is actually an echo of how I would sum up the picture. An art curator asks bull rider Luke what he thinks of all the six figure impressionistic paintings he replies, “I think there is more bull**** in here than where I work.”

Final Thought

A slow, bumpy and nauseating ride.


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