Directed by George Tillman, Jr. Produced by Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Theresa Park, and Nicholas Sparks. Written by Craig Bolotin. Release date: April 10, 2015.
I was almost ready to give The Longest Ride a tentative and hesitating pass if only because its first two-thirds aren't as painful to sit through as most Nicholas Sparks adaptations. Sparks, you may remember, wrote The Notebook, Dear John, and a whole host of other romance novels that Hollywood is currently enjoying adapting. And for a while, The Longest Ride isn't that bad. It's dull, the romance isn't particularly interesting, and the characters are bland, but that still makes it better than most of these things. Then the final third happens. I wish I was using hyperbole when I say that The Longest Ride has the stupidest ending I've seen in a movie in years, but hyperbole that statement isn't. It's dumbfounding that the filmmakers think adults will eat it up, but I guess the novel sold well enough to warrant this film, so maybe I'm the one who's crazy here.
Our leads are Sophia (Britt Robertson), a college student studying art, and Luke (Scott Eastwood), a professional bull rider. They meet at one of his competitions, go out on a date, and then save an elderly man, Ira (Alan Alda), from dying after he crashes his car. What a first date! It turns out that was just a narrative means of getting Sophia to hear Ira's story of how he fell in love with a woman who loved art, a story which we see through flashbacks over the film's duration and one which parallels Sophia and Luke's budding romance.
Thematically, this makes a little bit of sense, as it allows the film to hammer home whichever romantic theme it wants twice. For the audience, though, it basically means seeing the same thing two times, which, given the film's two-plus-hour running time, is torturous. Sophia falls for Luke because he's a tough cowboy, and he falls for her because she's The Special. Seriously, they have this conversation. Even though they come from different worlds, they're in love, and that's all fine and dandy. Boring, but whatever. Then, with about a third of its running time remaining, The Longest Ride tries to throw conflict into the mix - "love means sacrifice" - which doesn't work, followed by the most mind-bogglingly stupid conclusion to a movie that I honestly hope the filmmakers changed from the book just because it screams "Hollywood ending."