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The Longest Ride




The Longest Ride (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

04/16/15
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



The Longest Ride (PG-13)

Attractive but dull young people learn about love and overcoming life’s difficulties with help from World War II-era flashbacks in The Longest Ride, another weak-sauce romance that started life as a Nicholas Sparks novel.
A North Carolina college senior just months away from a new job at an art gallery and a new life in New York City, Sophia (Britt Robertson) is so focused on the future she doesn’t even want to spend a night goofing off by going to a bull-riding competition with her sorority sisters. But, they exclaim, hot cowboys! So she agrees to tag along and ends up rescuing the hat of Luke (Scott Eastwood — son of Clint), the hottest of all the hot cowboys. Gentlemanly Luke tells Sophia to keep it and, post bull-riding, he is able to get her number. At first, Sophia doesn’t want to return his calls — blah blah leaving soon blah blah — but when she does finally talk to Luke he asks her out on a proper date, no “hanging out” or “going for coffee” for this upstanding young man. He picks her up, complete with bouquet of flowers, braving the bulging cartoon wolf eyes of all of her sorority sisters, and then Luke and Sophia head out for a classy, intimate date by the lake. They hit it off and are full of melty-eye looks for each other but then Sophia tells him she’s planning to leave and Luke more or less puts an end to the date, getting back in the car to drive her home.
On the way home, Luke and Sophia see a car that has crashed through a guardrail and is now aflame at the bottom of a ditch. Luke rushes to pull an elderly man, who we later learn is Ira Levinson (Alan Alda), out of the car before the flames cause an explosion. Semi-conscious, Ira tells Sophia to grab the box — a wicker box full of letters in the car next to him. She grabs it and joins Luke in speeding Ira to the nearest hospital. Once there, she hangs on to the letters, waiting for him to wake up, sneaking a peek at one of them.
As we learn after Sophia talks to a conscious and grumpy Ira, the letters are a record of the romance of a young Ira (Jack Huston) and Ruth (Oona Chaplin). Back in 1940, Ira met Ruth when she and her mother walked into his family’s store. Ruth’s family was new to the area, recent refugees from Nazi-controlled Vienna. Life in relatively rural North Carolina was not quite as cultured as she was used to but Ruth was a fan of the artists at the nearby Black Mountain College. She shared with Ira her love of art, which increased Ira’s love of Ruth. 
Sophia reads the letters to present-day Ira and becomes enamored of their love story, enough so as to throw caution to the wind and start up a proper romance with Luke. But just as the path of Ira and Ruth doesn’t run smooth, there is more standing in Luke and Sophia’s way than a fancy New York job: Sophia learns that previous injuries sustained by Luke while bull-riding make his current attempt at being a world champion not just more difficult for him but more dangerous — and possibly deadly — than he’s willing to let on.
Here is where I say SPOILER ALERT (for all you diehard Sparks fans who don’t want to know a major plot point) in order to complain, like a 90-year-old man sending back hospital Jell-O, about the movie’s B-plot, which is arguably more interesting than the modern young people and their boring romance, which I think are supposed to be this movie’s heart. The tale of Ira and Ruth Levinson is essentially a greatly extended version of the tale told during the first 10 minutes of Pixar’s Up. You remember, the montage that shows us Carl and Ellie’s life between their childhood meeting and Carl’s plans to pilot his house to South America via balloons. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say: you remember, that part of the movie where everybody in the theater pretended they had allergies or that popcorn salt got in their eyes or shut up, you’re crying. And, yes, I sniffled at that part, and this was even before I had a baby and became a total weeper at even obvious melodrama in poorly made movies.
If you’ve ever wondered what that segment would feel like stripped of all subtlety and emotional nuance and drawn out until it felt like it was unfolding in real time, well here it is. The Longest Ride takes a bittersweet thing and drags it out until, like twice-chewed gum, it has lost all flavor. Thus ends the SPOILER.
The olden-days romance is not the only thing that feels dragged out in this two-hour-and-19-minutes-long movie. For a movie that is clearly going to be about the college girl and the hot cowboy and their PG-13 romance, this film takes forever to get them together. Get to the part where Luke and Sophia break up for no reason already, I found myself thinking. Then, get to the part where they get back together again because the movie is almost over, I sighed, head flapping back like an impatient teenager. Gaah, take forever, movie, I thought when I looked at my phone and realized that this movie that seemed to go on forever was still a good hour from wrapping up. A frothy romance like this, with attractive people saying sweet things to each other, would be far more tolerable if it stayed frothy, i.e. light and sun-dappled and skipping through the familiar beats. Instead, The Longest Ride really does take the longest route to every plot point, loading down every bit of the story with detailed explanation and repetition until I started to wonder if there was some mistake, didn’t we just see this scene? 
And then there’s the chemistry, the indefinable something that can make this on-screen romance sizzle and that on-screen romance feel flat. Britt Robertson and Scott Eastwood are both pretty but they develop no more heat than that of a pretty Barbie and a handsome Ken being manipulated by an 11-year-old with an overdeveloped sense of melodrama. Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston (both, fun fact, with old Hollywood families) do a little bit better, though their characters are such broad-stroke creations they don’t really set the world ablaze either. 
The Longest Ride does indeed live up to its name, feeling like a very long ride in a very stuffy car through very monotonous, well-traveled country. C
Rated PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action. Directed by George Tillman Jr. with a screenplay by Craig Bolotin (from a novel of the same name by Nicholas Sparks), The Longest Ride is two hours and 19 minutes long and is distributed by 20th Century Fox.  





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