Movie Review: The Longest Ride
There always seem to be recurring themes within the works of Nicholas Sparks: the setting is typically North Carolina, where Sparks himself lives with his family; the time span of the story can range anywhere from twenty years to a hundred years, and occasionally involves a scene or two that deals with war; the element of water can play a dramatic role in the plot, whether it’s a boat ride or a long walk on the beach; and most of what Sparks writes is centered on a relationship in which two complete opposites unexpectedly attract.
The Longest Ride, Sparks’ latest book-to-film adaptation, has all of these things—and so much more.
The film’s opening scene is divided into two parts, in which we get a feel for the worlds where our two main characters come from. Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) is of a world of deep southern steel, filled with excitement as well as danger. When we are first introduced to Luke, we see the beginning of an intense bull riding competition, where Luke is about to return to the sport after an injury had forced him to take a leaf of absence. These camera shots are not unlike the start of 2013’s Dallas Buyer’s Club. In stark contrast, the introduction of the female lead, Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), bears a striking resemblance to the onset of 2001’s Legally Blonde. But Sophia is no Elle Woods: She may live in a sorority, but she prefers working towards her goal of a career in the Fine Arts to attending frat parties and having gossip sessions.
However, after being convinced by her roommate to come to a rodeo competition, the lives of Sophia and Luke will intertwine in surprising ways.
Scott Eastwood, son of the legendary Clint Eastwood, is undoubtedly the spitting image of his father during his prime days in films such as Dirty Harry and The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. In addition to inheriting the electrifying blue eyes, Scott also proves himself to expertly adapt at playing a determined and fearless man who is a force not to be reckoned with. When the camera focuses on Eastwood donning a cowboy hat as he is about to wrestle a dangerous bull, one can’t help but recall his father’s memorable character, Blondie.
After a brief collection of blushes and giggles (and an exchange of a black cowboy hat), Luke and Sophia can hardly deny the happiness they provoke in each other. They decide to try their hand at dating, and Luke agrees to pick her up at her sorority house on the campus of Black Mountain College. Even though he’s a true Southern gentleman, it’s plain to see that Collins is out of his element at this elite school. Still, in his black boots, hat, and belt and denim blue attire with wildflowers in hand, his walk up to the house echoes the strut that John Voight made in New York City as Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy. And in a sense, the connection between Luke and Sophia is like the friendship between Ratzo Rizzo and Joe Buck: they could not be more different in appearance and lifestyle, yet their big-eyed dreams of success make them compatible and inseparable.
Of course, there is another important element to this love story. Enter Ira Levinson, an elderly man who is grasping on the last strands of his life. Levinson, while driving home one rainy night, swerves off the road and crashes into a tree. Barely conscious, he is rescued by Luke and Sophia. “Get the box,” He whispers. Sophia opens the trunk to find a wicker box filled with letters that tell Ira’s own tragic love story, and as Sophia reads them to Levinson while he is recuperating in the hospital, she realizes that, like Ira and his wife, Ruth, love is not always easy, but it is always worth it.
Brought to life by the famous Alan Alda, Levinson’s character possesses the same satirical humor as Alda’s renowned character Captain Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce from the acclaimed television show, M*A*S*H. However, it is of tragic irony to see the leading captain and medical personnel as patient instead of doctor.
All in all, The Longest Ride is a breath of fresh air that reminds us of how love can be easy and hard. It all depends on what you are willing to give up for that other person in your life. Unlike February’s Fifty Shades of Grey, this is a love story that is enjoyable at first sight and much more relatable to the audience.