Nicholas Sparks knows exactly who his audience is and, as exclusive as that may be, he knows he can find success writing directly to them. His books aren’t filled with brilliant ideas or commentary, just simple fantasy and romance that people can get lost in and then immediately forget. That said, it would be a surprise if even his most loyal fans could find something to love in the adaptation of his novel The Lucky One.
The story begins with a marine named Logan (Zac Efron) serving in the Iraq War. The morning after a night raid, he finds a picture of what just so happens to be a beautiful young woman buried in the dirt. When he stands and walks over to inspect it, an explosion erupts from the place where he was sitting and he takes it as a sign. Upon returning home, Logan goes on a search for the woman (Taylor Schilling), whom he learns is named Beth, but after meeting her has a mysteriously hard time telling her the truth. Instead, he lies for absolutely no reason and takes a job working at her family-run kennel. As months pass they grow closer and begin a relationship, but he still can’t tell her about the photo that he found in the desert.
You may now be asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t he just tell her about the picture?” but it's a mystery that leads to the film's biggest issue: there’s no conflict driving the story. When Logan and Beth first meet he is about to tell her the truth, but when she interrupts him the message is dropped completely and doesn’t return as an issue until the third act. The movie tries to compensate for this gaping void by giving Beth an asshole ex-husband (who is as generic as they come) that Logan has to deal with, but it only serves as a distraction from the main point. Unfortunately, it’s such a dumb ploy that I doubt even the youngest members of the audience will fall for it.
While it’s no secret that Nicholas Sparks has been churning out the same story for years now, The Lucky One is actually insulting in how manufactured it is. As a character, Logan is constructed as the ultimate female fantasy: he looks like Zac Efron, is sensitive but never over-emotional, he plays the piano, enjoys long walks, and dogs, grandmothers and children all adore him. Logan is so perfect that it actually borders on parody. And it doesn’t stop there. Every character, be it the aforementioned asshole ex, the sassy grandma, or the precocious child, has been seen in thousands of other stories and not a single bit of originality is brought into the mix here.
Disastrous as the script is, The Lucky One does have a palatable aesthetic that meshes well with the tone. Much like a Thomas Kinkade painting, Scott Hicks’s direction is simplistic, making the movie nice to look at, but lacks any kind of real depth or creativity. Taking advantage of Louisiana’s natural beauty, sequences where Logan wanders around with his dog are plentiful and meaningless to the story, but are made tolerable thanks to the pleasing scenery. Abundance of soft focus aside – which works well for the nature shots but only serves to further enhance the strange “flawlessness” of the main character – the film is generic in its look, but also quite pretty.
The Lucky One doesn’t have anything going for it that would make it worth the price of admission. If Nicholas Sparks’ career has been dedicated to creating the most bland, generic, pointless romance that he can, then he’s successfully done it with his latest title. Perhaps now he’ll consider retirement.