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The Best of Me

October 17, 2014
The Best of Me

There’s a point, about halfway through The Best of Me, where Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) tells her teenage sweetheart Dawson (James Marsden), “I always assumed life would just work out, and it did.” Well, of course it did, I wanted to yell. You’re rich, you’re pretty, and you’re in a Nick Sparks story. Any one of those would assure you an easy life.

Yes, this makes nine of these adaptations, and they’re not getting any better. The weak-sauce twist in Safe Haven at least added one small bit of texture in the mindless pablum, but there’s no such luck here. This is, frankly, lazy and predictable even for Sparks.

At the time she has that one, bare flicker of self-awareness, Amanda and Dawson have returned to their shared hometown where Dawson’s surrogate father-figure, Tuck (Gerald McRaney), has just died. But though they were once young and in love, unspoken circumstances have separated them.

Dawson works as a roughneck on an offshore oil rig, where he’s not only the smartest guy on board, he’s the most heroic. He proves as much when the well blows out, which is totally not a cynical move on Sparks’ part to repurpose an environmental catastrophe and the death of eleven men as cheap fodder for his bodice-rippers.

Amanda, on the other hand, is a dissatisfied housewife to a finance dudebro (Sebastian Arcelus). Which, to be honest, is where her life was always headed anyway. When we flash back to their childhood, the younger Amanda (Liana Liberato) was raised in a wealthy, Louisiana-society home, complete with white gloves at the parties. Younger Dawson (Luke Bracey) comes not only from the wrong side of the tracks, his redneck, drug-running father (Sean Bridgers) spits on the very idea of tracks.

But Dawson is somehow perfectly sweet and kind despite his entire home life, and Amanda is drawn to that kindness as an improvement over the preppy jocks she knows. And the one she will later marry because of course she won’t actually learn anything from her teenage romance with Dawson.

That’s one of the most frustrating parts of the whole exercise: watching Monaghan try to find depth in this rainpuddle of a character when we’ve just seen that she’s capable of so much more. The lack of anything worthwhile for her to say is only slightly beefed up with close-ups of high school drama exercise facial expression shifts.

But even Amanda’s wishy-washy hand-wringing is a tour-de-force next to basically any other character we see, as they’re all either angels or demons. I’m sure it’s comforting to see the world drawn in such black-and-white lines, filled in with primary colors, but it’s boring and predictable from start to finish.

I know that hit-pieces like this are the lowest form of criticism, but there is literally nothing else to say about this movie.

Worth It: no.
Bechdel Test: fail.

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