The Best of Me

Posted October 17, 2014 by in


Total Score

.5/ 5

Quick Stats

Genre: romance
Director: Michael Hoffman
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Actors: James Marsden, Michelle Monaghan, Luke Bracey
Length: 117 minutes
Release Date: 10-17-2014
Studio: DiNovi Pictures, Relativity Media, Surefire Entertainment Capital
What We Thought

Not so much a movie as a checklist of ways to pander to an easily-manipulated audience

by Daniel Hodgson
Full Article
The Best of Me isn’t so much a movie as a checklist of ways to pander to an easily-manipulated audience.  Sunrise and sunset shots:  check.  Flowers:  check.  Kissing in the rain:  check.  Characters looking for meaning in the universe:  check.  Girl falling in love with boy from wrong the side of the tracks:  check.  A morbid fascination with death and dying:  check.  Shirtless men:  double check.
     It is everything that you expect it to be.  The Best of Me is a consumer product, the result of a tested and proven formula that will work again and again.  Even if it’s an incoherent mess.
     Within the first five minutes of the film, Dawson (James Marsden), a late-30’s roughneck, almost dies when an oil rig blows up.  His survival is similar to Zac Efron’s brush with death in The Lucky One, except that in that film, the incident puts the plot in motion.  Here, it’s a non-event.
     What really gets the ball rolling is when Dawson gets the call that his adoptive father Tuck (Gerald McRaney) has passed away.  The foundation for a Nick Sparks flick is death.  It is the beginning, middle, and end of his plots.  It’s like Game of Thrones, but without the anatomy or the dignity.  A strange irony indeed.
     Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) also gets the news.  Both show up at Tucks’s old house, where Dawson works on one of Tuck’s vintage cars, stripped down to a muscle shirt.  It’s nothing she hasn’t seen before; they dated 20 years ago in their teens.
     One of the main reasons I endured this movie was to see if it could possibly be any worse than February’s Endless Love.  The film makes the same mistake that Endless Love did, in that it casts a female lead (Liana Liberato) who looks 18, if not younger, for the teen version of Amanda, but then casts Luke Bracey as the teen version of Dawson, even though he’s in his mid-twenties—and looks it.  You put the two together on screen, and it looks like a statuary charge in progress.  Furthermore, the only way that Luke Bracey looks like James Marsden is if Marsden got hit in the face with a shovel, which isn’t far from the truth, actually.
     We know it doesn’t work out between them because of the flashback structure.  The target audience for the film knows the ending already, having read the book…so why withhold spoilers?
     The reason that Dawson didn’t die in the oil rig explosion is because destiny needed him to die later, so his heart can end up transplanted into Amanda’s son Jared (Ian Nelson), who was critically injured in a car crash.  Here’s the thing:  her son has only one scene up until that point, and it’s at the beginning of the film.  By the time the plot reached this point almost 2 hours later, I had forgotten he’d existed.  You can imagine my investment in the outcome.
     The movie itself loses track of its own characters.  Dawson meets Aaron (Ian Nelson), a teenager who’s fallen under the influence of Dawson’s own father Tommy (Sean Bridgers), an abusive white-trash drug dealer.  Dawson rescues Aaron from Tommy, inciting Tommy and precipitating the violent climax.  After Dawson’s death, there’s no resolution as to what happens to Aaron.  Whose fate is the film about, Jared’s, Aaron’s?  Does it even matter?
     This is my third Sparks flick.  Is it just me, or are these films radically white-centric and hetero-normative?  White boys hooking up with white girls, with white bad guys in the way of straight white love.  These films are 50 years behind any kind of social relevance.
     The only thing the film has going for it is Liana Liberato’s performance, who brings charm and spark to teenage Amanda.  Otherwise, it’s meritless.
     Endless Love was shit.  The Best of Me is what Endless Love aspired to be.  Dog food.

About the Author

Daniel Hodgson

Daniel has a degree in film from the University of Texas at Austin, and writes about himself in the third-person, because that's the fashion.


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