Film Review: The Longest Ride (M) (USA, 2015)

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Before we start, there are three things you need to know about this film:
1. This is based on a Nicholas Sparks book
2. There are three stars here, Britt Robertson as goody-two-shoes Sophia, Scott Eastwood as Hunky Cowboy Luke and Scott Eastwood’s blue blue eyes
3. The two lead characters look really good together and yeh, it’s based on a Nicholas Sparks book so you could technically have the sudden urge to use the toilet in the last 15 minutes and still know how the movie will end

But why would you want to do that? You know in your heart of hearts you are a 16-year-old girl and you will EAT. THIS. SHIT. UP. Why? Because the formula works (boy meets girl, blah blah blah, happily ever after) and if that’s what you want to see, then, like other Nicholas Spark adaptations before, the formula works well.

The Longest Ride is about studious and cultured Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), a final year university student with her life mapped out in front of her. She’s lined up an internship at a snooty gallery in Manhattan and she has no time – no time, I tell you! – for boys. Her party gal sorority sister coaxes her out one night to watch the rodeo (bull riding) where she meets the Hottest Guy There, Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood), a professional bull rider, and a good one at that.

On the way home from their first date (he packs a picnic blanket and they eat and drink and cuddle under the stars) they encounter a car crash, and Luke, like the hero he is, pulls an elderly man from the wreckage. The man is Ira Levinson (Alan Alda!) and, weakened from the crash, instructs Sophia to fetch a box from the car wreck. The box contains decades worth of letters he has written to his wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin as the young Ruth, Naomi Eckhaus as older Ruth). Sophia reads the letters to the convalescent Ira and finds that his and Ruth’s love story helps her deal with hers and Luke’s growing relationship.

It’s like The Notebook 2.0, although there will never be another Allie-type girl like Rachel McAdams’ version and it’s not fair to compare Luke to Noah. But this film is about lessons from the past, regret, loss and heartache, all of which are executed pretty well here and make for the perfect chick flick.

Danny Huston plays the younger Ira with ease but it’s Oona Chaplin who really stands out, probably even over Robertson. If she looks familiar to you, it’s because you’ve seen her as Talisa Maegyr in Game of Thrones, and pregnancy has never looked more frightening since. She’s the perfect Ruth – the woman Ira is totally smitten with, with all the bubbly loveliness a film like this needs. You completely believe in Ira’s affection for her, and you kind of wish the film followed them a little bit more, too.

What you’ll love about this film is how good deeds are always rewarded, particularly with Ruth and Ira caring for a young boy from a bad home. It’s really fanciful, but it’s sweet, and it works in the context of the film. In fact, this whole film is sweet, some might say sickly sweet, but this is the kind of film you watch when you want a break from cynicism and crassness.

Robertson and Eastwood as Sophia and Luke are believable because they look so bloody good together, but that’s about it. I’m sure they get on great in real life, but it didn’t really translate on screen. People will be distracted by Clint’s son’s blue eyes (all the time!) and the camera pans down – and stays – at Scott’s abs in one love scene. Gratuitous Hunky Man work aside, Eastwood does a pretty good job as bull rider Luke, and if he actually performed some of those stunts during the rodeo scenes then he deserves a special medal. Britt Robertson is sweet as Sophia.

The Longest Ride is not a challenging, life-changing film by any stretch but it’s the perfect antidote for the broken-hearted, giggly, lovelorn teen in all of us.

 

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Running Time: 128 minutes

The Longest Ride is screening in Australian cinemas from 9th April 2015 through 20th Century Fox pictures