The Best of Me
Film Review by Kam Williams
High School Sweethearts Reunite in Adaptation of Bittersweet Best Seller
The real test of a good tearjerker is whether or not it moves you to tears. And this movie managed to make me cry in spite of myself.
As this film unfolded, I frequently found myself criticizing its considerable structural flaws, from the questionable casting to the farfetched storyline to one humdinger of a reveal. Nevertheless, as the closing credits rolled, I found myself wiping my eyes, a sure sign that this manipulative melodrama calculated to open the floodgates had achieved its goal.
Directed by Michael Hoffman (The Last Station), the picture is loosely based on the Nicholas Sparks best seller of the same name published in 2011. Sparks is the prolific author of 18 romance novels, half of which have been adapted to the big screen, most notably Message in a Bottle and The Notebook, with a couple more already in the works.
Set in Oriental, North Carolina, The Best of Me stars James Marsden and Michelle
Monaghan as Dawson Cole and Amanda Collier, former high school sweethearts who haven’t seen each in a couple decades. Strangely, the teenage versions of the very same characters are played in a series of intermittent flashbacks by look-un-likes Luke Bracey and Liana Liberato.
The point of departure is the present, where we learn that Dawson, who never married or attended college, is employed on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. He subsequently barely survives a deepwater explosion that blows him off the hundred-foot high platform and turns the Gulf of Mexico into a sea of fire. Meanwhile, miserably married Amanda is living in the lap of luxury in Baton Rouge where she has stuck it out for 18 years with an abusive alcoholic (Sebastian Arcelus) for the sake of their son (Ian Nelson).
Fate brings the two back to their tiny hometown for the funeral of Tuck (Gerald McRaney), a mutual friend with a posthumous agenda. He named them both in his will with the hope of orchestrating a reunion of the star-crossed lovers he considered meant for each other. Sure enough, sparks fly, but will they share more than a one-night stand?
A syrupy, sentimental soap opera tailor-made for fans of the Nicholas Sparks franchise.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence, brief profanity and some drug use
Running time: 117 minutes
Distributor: Relativity Media