Directed by: Scott Hicks
Premise: An adaptation of the novel by Nicholas Sparks. An Iraq war veteran (Zac Efron) travels to North Carolina in search of the woman (Taylor Schilling) whose picture he believes brought him luck on the battlefield.
What Works: The Lucky One has some very impressive images. The film uses a broad pallet of colors and many of the settings have a lush and organic texture. The film also has a pair of notable supporting performances by Blythe Danner as the wise grandmother and Riley Thomas Stewart as a precocious youngster. These two characters provide a lot of authenticity and human emotion to what is otherwise a very mundane film.
What Doesn’t: The Lucky One is an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel and so expectations ought to be set low. But, even with depressed prospects, this is still an underwhelming film. Part of the problem is that so many elements of The Lucky One are cannibalized from other Nicholas Sparks pictures. The film includes the military veteran character of Dear John, the search for love as seen in Message in a Bottle, and even the major love scene is repeated from The Notebook. Viewers who have seen some or all of the films adapted from Sparks’ novels will find a lot of elements in The Lucky One familiar and although that predictability is part of the appeal of these stories this is the seventh film to repeat the formula and by now it comes across as rote. The recombination of elements from other movies might not be so bad if those elements were combined with fresh material or even just presented in a compelling way but The Lucky One is a directionless film. Once the story places its main character at his destination—which the film does within the first fifteen minutes—not much actually happens for the rest of the picture. There is no rising action throughout the second act of the story. For that matter, nothing ever really happens in the film at all until the very end. The Lucky One relies on the well-worn story convention of the stranger with a secret but in this case that secret is so weak that it is inconsequential. When the film gets to its climax the drama is contrived and nothing is really resolved or affirmed by the end of the film. Maybe because the movie doesn’t give its characters a motivation for anything and because there is nothing at stake in the story, the performances by the lead actors of The Lucky One are really flat. Zac Efron looks blank throughout the film, often staring off into space, and Taylor Schilling is awkward, often overcompensating in the rare moments in which her character actually does something. Because the story is so shapeless and the performances by the actors are so flat, The Lucky One is a dull film and this really dooms the picture. A romance, especially one with Nicholas Sparks’ name attached to it, is viewed for the purpose of providing audiences with an opportunity to experience heartache. But there is no heat to the relationship and there is no compelling attraction between the lead characters. In short, The Lucky One is a romance without desire and that makes the whole film pointless.
Bottom Line: The Lucky One is the most passionless installment yet from the Nicholas Sparks mc-romance factory and in this picture it is clear that the filmmakers and the performers are just going through the motions.
Episode: #386 (April 29, 2012)