Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Best Of Me (2014) - Movie Review

Everyone has different ways of celebrating Halloween: Some go trick-or-treating even past the intended age range for the activity, some set up elaborate pranks to scare the crap out of their friends (and hopefully get some views on YouTube) and some stay in to watch horror movies. I, on the other hand, went out to see my movie, but it was something that even the grisliest of horror films wouldn’t be able to compare with: A Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation.

The plot: Dawson (James Marsden) and Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) reunite after their high school romance 21 years earlier (Luke Bracey and Liana Libretto respectively) and they start to rekindle their relationship.

While I’m still capable of being charitable, I will admit that the actors do alright with the material given. Gerald McRaney, who plays the resident father figure of the film, actually does a good job with his role and makes for the best part of the movie whenever he’s on screen. My patience ends there, however, as this is a movie where the writing is the grave that it lies in. I will refrain from using the words ‘chick flick’ in the rest of this review since it keeps being used as a put-down term when it really shouldn’t be; The Fault In Our Stars undoubtedly fits into that category and yet I found it to be a very good watch. However, know that The Best Of Me is definitely one of them in the worst possible context: Easy and mindless wish fulfilment romance shlock.

How bad does the pandering get here? There is a gardening scene involving young Dawson that exists for no other reason than for him to get his shirt off. The writers seem to have really loved Dawson, because he gets the most backstory in this movie at the other characters’ expense. Come the end of the movie, we know a fair amount about Dawson and his upbringing in a redneck criminal family, and yet we learn very little about Amanda aside from her parents being rich. That’s a problem with almost all of the characters here, including Dawson: They’re all incredibly flat and unengaging, save for Gerald McRaney as Tuck whom might have saved this movie if he was in more scenes.

The clichéd writing feels like it pooled from every single romantic film ever made to give them ‘character’ (You know that scene where the love interest’s father tries to bribe the male lead to stay away from his daughter? Yeah, we get one of those here too), epitomised by the ever-present theme of ‘destiny’, an idea so hackneyed that even most modern romance films make fun of it themselves. Even though the idea of destiny and how unlikely it is that two people who are true soul mates would meet each other is shown in many films that involve a romantic interest, this film takes it to such ridiculous degrees that you would need near-superhuman strength to suspend your disbelief enough to buy into any of this. We’re talking ‘She dreamed that I was singing to her while I was actually in another country singing that exact same song and thinking of her’ levels of convolution.

What about the relationship between the leads, the core of any good romantic movie? Well, suffice to say, I have seen better chemistry in the making of ecstasy tablets than in our leads. It’s actually at that point where Amanda has better chemistry with her own son than she does with Dawson… and you have yet to realize just how bad that sounds. Throughout the majority of the flashback scenes of the two when they were young, Dawson keeps insisting that she should stay away from him because of his family (which, in all honesty, is a legit point to bring up), but she stays with him because love is stupid. It’s only when Dawson ends up in jail, when Amanda has pretty much proven that she will stand by him no matter what happens to him, that he officially breaks it off and doesn’t see her again until the story picks up 21 years later. What’s worse is that Dawson being this oblivious to how much Amanda loves him is intentional and even admitted to in the dialogue. Flaw or feature, it still makes him an idiot.

So, aside from the writing and mild acting, what else is wrong? The editing, which is oddly enough something I don’t often get to complain about with movies. The transitions between the past and present are incredibly awkward and feel like the editor for Game Grumps hijacked the production at times with how abrupt they are, although there is one exception with Dawson and a record player that was well done. Also, there was a scene where the ADR for Amanda was at straight-to-DVD levels, where she was talking and yet her mouth clearly wasn’t moving. I can say, without a hint of irony, that I could have done a better job editing this myself.

And now, the big one: The ending, which means *SPOILERS*, although trust me you’re missing out on all of nothing. This has to be one of the most rage-inducing endings I’ve sat through in a long while. One of the co-writers, Will Fetters, was also the writer of the hyper-saccharine rom-drama Remember Me starring Robert Pattinson, which just goes to show that the man has a flair for surprisingly awful resolutions to his movies. Okay, so Amanda’s son gets into a car accident and needs a heart transplant; at the same time, Dawson gets into an altercation with his father after he tries to rescue a friend’s son from him. Dawson ends up shot dead, and his heart is transplanted into Amanda’s son. I don’t know what’s worse: The fact that this stupefying resolution was given the go ahead, or that it is so intensely telegraphed that I spent most of the third act praying that they wouldn’t be that stupid.

The only way this could be worse is if this movie went in the direction of ‘Return To Me’ with David Duchovny, which had a similar plot point about heart transplants, and Amanda and her son suddenly developing a romantic relationship because of that connection to Dawson. Actually, if I’m being completely honest, that might make for a better movie than what we ultimately get. We’d have had a more interesting love story at the very least.

All in all, this is an absolutely horrible movie to sit through. It’s not even the kind of bad that’s riffable, so you could sit down with your friends and just make fun of it as you go; it’s just plain awful.

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