Quick Take: A must see for anyone who either a) loves Zac Efron, b) is a hopless romantic/Nicholas Sparks fan, or c) all of the above and has a love of dogs. Skip it if you get bored watching by-the-numbers romantic dramas, or if you own a DVD of The Notebook that you can watch for free! You can watch the trailer for The Lucky One here.
How The Lucky One Ranks Among Films Based on Novels by Nicholas Sparks: (not including Message in a Bottle (1999) because I have not seen it)
1) The Notebook (2004)
2) The Last Song (2010)
3) A Walk to Remember (2002)
4) Dear John (2010)
5) The Lucky One (2012)
6) Nights in Rodanthe (2008)
Confession #1: I am a complete sucker for Nicholas Sparks movies. As a hopeless romantic, there is nothing I enjoy more than a tale of true love staring two exceptionally good-looking actors (see: Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams).
Confession #2: I am a Zac Efron fan, and I believe in his abilities as an actor, not just as a stud. Looks aside, Zac Efron has the potential to grow into a fantastic actor. Given the right role, he excels (see Hairspray). Not to mention the fact that he has proven himself as having leading-man qualities (see High School Musical 1-3).
This weekend, I went to see The Lucky One with one of my best friends, expecting nothing more than a good time, and a romantic, emotional roller coaster. My friend and I had seen The Last Song (2010), the last Nicholas Sparks film, together as well, so we were fully prepared for what was to come. We knew that the film we were about to see was undoubtedly going to be a little sappy, a little over-dramatic, and a little cliché. I can tell you now, it was all of that and a bag of chips.
The Lucky One tells the story of a war vet, Logan (Zac Efron), who goes in search of a woman, Beth, played by Taylor Schilling, he believes was his guardian angel during his time fighting overseas. The way the film tiptoed around PTSD was very interesting: they never mentioned it by name, but it was clear that Logan was dealing with some form of it throughout the film. Though the film did not paint a 100% accurate picture of the war in Iraq (it wasn’t trying to), it didn’t present an overly romanticized picture of it either, which was refreshing to see in this type of film.
The plot was still quite heavy-handed, especially during moments of extreme dramatic twists, which made the film less of a serious movie and more of a soap opera. The camera work and the soundtrack never failed to reflect the tone of the plot, reminding the audience exactly when to be afraid, when to be enamored, and when to be excited. Director, Scott Hicks over-emphasized the plot, with camera work (steady-cam love vs. hand held war) and music choices, to the point of overkill.
Zac Efron had to work hard to bulk up and turn down the charm for this role. His character is very socially awkward and uncomfortable, sometimes stoic. Logan’s preferred methods of communication are short, but meaningful sentences, and longing stares. Despite the emotional undertones, Logan came across as strangely one-dimensional, which I believe was a fault of the writing. It was as if there was something below the surface that the screenplay kept hidden, buried under picturesque scenery and cute puppies. All in all, Logan was sometimes endearing, and sometimes a cardboard cutout.
This did not do much to make up for the fact that Zac Efron and his romantic counterpart, Taylor Schilling, had very little heat. Yes, they were sweet, but the desire that was supposed to bring them together was lacking. Even in the sex scenes (including risqué shower sex, mind you), it was difficult to feel the connection. I felt like I had to imagine their bond myself, as opposed to getting it off of the screen. Their lack of chemistry was the biggest flaw in the film, especially considering how well cast the romantic leads are in other Nicholas Sparks movies (The Last Song, The Notebook).
The shining stars of the film (other than Zac Efron’s hot bod) were Blythe Danner, who plays Beth’s light-hearted grandmother (in a universe where she would look old enough to have a 26 year old granddaughter), and Riley Thomas Stewart, who played Beth’s son Ben. I know what you’re thinking: The Lucky One had a good child star that wasn’t the post-pubescent Zac Efron? But, it’s true! Riley Thomas Stewart played seven-year-old Ben with striking care and sensitivity. He is a natural, which is hard to come by in child actors.
In the end, I enjoyed it, the film was fun, but it fell short of my expectations. Still, I am excited to see how Zac Efron’s career evolves from here. I can’t wait for him to get his big breakout role as an adult.
Did any of you see The Lucky One? Do you think Zac Efron will be able to break out as an adult actor/male lead?