In my 21 years of moderate-to-excessive movie-watching, I have seen my fair share of films. However, “The Choice” may be one of the most horrendous movies I have ever seen. Some parts exemplified such poor filmmaking that I either laughed aloud in the theater or winced and averted my eyes from what was on the screen.
Marking the 11th feature film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, “The Choice” is the first movie produced by Nicholas Sparks Productions. Sparks has already used the same movie plot time and again to swindle audiences of out of millions of dollars, and now there’s the promise looming in the air of more to come.
Even though I had not read the book, I knew exactly what I was getting myself into: a quickly-formed, passionate romance with a plot twist three quarters of the way through. I was not wrong, but “The Choice” failed to provide the satisfying, garbage entertainment.
According to Sparks, “The Choice” is even “more memorable and profound” than his best-selling, tear-jerking novel “The Notebook.” I’m going to have to take the author’s word for it about the book, but as far as the movie is concerned, our opinions do not align.
It had all the usual elements of a Sparks book-turned-film —a North Carolina setting, a trip to the hospital, cute dates, cheesy lines – making it hard to pinpoint where exactly this one went wrong (or more wrong). I guess there is not a single factor contributing to the poor quality of this film because every area was pretty disappointing, but overall I would just call it an unsuccessful story-telling attempt.
The opening line of the film — “Now pay attention, because I’m about to tell you the secret to life” —sounds like a promising start to a movie. Perhaps it even gives one the idea that the depths of humanity will be explored as the characters embark on metaphysical journeys and discover that the secret to life is, as we are quickly told, “the choices we make,” hence the title of the film. The greater the risk, the harder the fall, and this film epically failed to satisfy this bold opener.
The film’s male protagonist Travis (Benjamin Walker) is a suave ladies’ man who has a fear of commitment and more than enough shirtless scenes. Walker’s thick accent and bro flow provides a convincing enough leading man who thought his job, his dog and his free-spirited life were enough to make him happy.
The arrival of a new neighbor Gabby (Teresa Palmer) next to Travis’ isolated beachfront bachelor pad seems to mean “trouble” for Travis, as his sister Steph (Maggie Grace) puts it.
Palmer’s performance was so poor that I would not be surprised if she won a Razzie for this film. She had all the elements for a promising leading lady, but the actress just couldn’t seem to make me feel anything but annoyed and disappointed whenever she was on the screen.
In contract to Travis, Gabby is a type-A medical school student who is engaged to a doctor named Ryan, played by Tom Wellington, who looks like he’s hit the gym a few times since his days on “Smallville.” Despite her romantic unavailability, her relationship with Travis quickly transforms from bickering neighbors to lovers. This pivot point takes place right around the time Gabby’s fiancé conveniently leaves for an extended work trip that essentially served as his exit from the movie plot altogether as he was rarely even mentioned after.
Despite the lack of chemistry between Walker and Palmer, the entire film still desperately attempted to sweep you away into their sap-filled romantic affair, the end goal of any Sparks production. The filmmakers used all the cliché stunts – puppies, beaches, sunsets, motorcycles rides – but unfortunately, the two just come off as robotic, going through the motions of a couple falling in love and failing to convey any sort of genuine, meaningful conversation other than their relationship tagline, “you bother me.”
There also is not any real conflict in the film. Sure, Travis and Gabby are both kind of romantically involved with other people, but it doesn’t prove to be anything of substance with how quickly it is resolved and virtually even unaddressed.
Honestly, my favorite romance in the film was the one that developed between Travis’ veterinarian father Shep (Tom Wilkinson) and the woman who owned the sickest dog in the town.
Even the inevitable plot twist that comes three-quarters of the way through the movie does not make the movie more interesting or complex. The entire film was predictable, lacking in depth and sincerity, and exemplified poor filmmaking execution in every category other than some pleasingly picturesque cinematography.
If you haven’t already figured out my opinion, save yourself $10 and do not go see this film, even if you’re a diehard Nicholas Sparks fan.
– Mary Moses Hitt