Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, April 17, 2015

Blame it on the bulls

The Critic's Corner

David Laprad

Some of you might consider classifying movies based on their appeal to a specific gender to be sexist or politically incorrect. But sometimes, that’s the easiest way to describe a film. Take “The Longest Ride,” for example. It’s a chick flick through and through.

Hear me out. Based on a Nicholas Sparks (“The Notebook,” “A Walk to Remember”) novel of the same name, “The Longest Ride” follows the romance of Sophia and Luke, two kids from different worlds who meet and fall in love over a rope of bull snot.

She’s a sophisticated art student with a bright future as a gallery manager, and he’s a hunky buck snort who dreams of becoming the top bull rider in the world. They meet when a friend drags her to a bull riding contest in which he’s competing, and his cowboy hat winds up in her hands after an especially rough ride. “Keep it,” he says with the kind of smile that melts hearts and stirs nether regions.

Love stories don’t begin with happily ever after, so a plethora of issues pop up. In the end, though, she learns that life can be as unpredictable and thrilling as the modern artwork she adores, and he learns how to set aside his bull riding ambitions and commit to the girl he loves.

What a bunch of schmaltz! I did NOT want to see this movie. I believe my precise words as I purchased my ticket from an unsympathetic teenager were, “I’d rather walk on stilts through a lighting storm with a pair of forks clenched between my teeth.”

She told me to enjoy the movie anyway – with the kind of thousand yard stare and bored drawl teens get when they hate their job. To my surprise, I did.

I not only liked “The Longest Ride,” I fought back tears during one scene. I knew I was being manipulated – Sparks has a limited arsenal of cheap emotional triggers on which he relies – but I couldn’t help myself. “The Longest Ride” might tell a time worn, painfully predictable story swimming in schmaltz, but it tells it well, and with genuine feeling.

Even more absorbing than Sophia and Luke’s story is a beautifully written subplot that tells the story of the decades-long romance of a man named Ira and his bride, Ruth. Again, Sparks leans heavily on romantic tropes, but tells their story with such sincerity, I couldn’t help but be drawn into their scenes. Sparks intertwines the two stories perfectly, with the ending of one affecting the outcome of the other.

There are other things to like about “The Longest Ride.” I liked the friendship that developed between Sophia and the 91-year-old Ira; it’s sweet. I also enjoyed watching Alan Alda as Ira. The role didn’t require much of him, but his mere presence in the film makes it better. Is there a kinder voice and warmer smile in movies today? Finally, I was surprised how well Scott Eastwood does in the role of Luke. Again, like Alda, the role didn’t demand much of Clint Eastwood’s son, but he proves he has the acting chops to keep up with a decent cast.

There you have it – one of the few positive reviews of “The Longest Ride.” You can write me off if you want, but not before seeing the film.

If you do go, here’s a piece of advice for men. When (not if) you cry, and your date asks why, blame it on the bulls. Don’t say you found the heartbreak of death at the end of a lifelong romance unbearable, say you were moved by the bulls, which clearly put their hearts into the movie, and weren’t even mentioned in the credits.

Three stars out of four. Rated PG-13 for sexuality, partial nudity, and war and sports action. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.