A Film4-backed short directed by Kibwe Tavares and starrnig Daniel Kaluuya
Zac Efron is a marine (yes, really) who attributes his survival in Iraq to a mysterious photo of a girl (Taylor Schilling) in another screen adaptation from romance novelist Nicholas Sparks
The Lucky One, based on the romantic novel by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, A Walk To Remember) sees Zac Efron play an Iraq veteran, whose shell-shock is introduced and then quickly forgotten about after a quick bit of toddler-throttling. The use of such a raw subject in such fluffy material comes off as worryingly throwaway as you might expect.
Efron has obviously worked hard to bulk up and walk with a stoic veteran's gait, but he still can’t summon much more than little-boy-lost levels of angst. And yet he’s just so damn earnest that he makes the film a lot more likable than it should have been - Taylor Schilling never really stands a chance. Cast against teen heartthrob Efron, thrown into the most gorgeous and quaint of Louisiana bayous, with the ever-likable Blythe Danner egging her on - we all know our young lovers are going to get it on, Scott Hicks (who also directed the Oscar-nominated Shine) seems to surmise, so let’s hurry up about it.
Hicks' direction is that of a puppet-master, forcing Schilling and Efron together with a maniacal determination. A series of irritatingly short scenes of longing glances, erotic dish-cleaning (it has to be seen to be believed) and Danner perving through windows all add up to a slapdash first half. For what it’s worth, the chemistry between Efron and Schilling is fine, it’s just everything else that’s a bit off. To give Hicks his due, this is an adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel, but even for a novelist who strikes fear into the hearts of jaded ladies and gentlemen with less cynical moviegoing partners, this is flimsy stuff.
Hicks doesn’t think we’ll notice the rubbish script (“you should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute” - hope she brought her chapstick) if Efron coos and purrs enough to keep us onside; this really is the most shameless attempt at sensitive-man erotica imaginable.
Mindless, pretty twaddle just made bearable by an enthusiastic cast (Efron in particular is strangely sympathetic) and an absolutely gorgeous setting. Avoid it unless The Notebook is your favourite film ever.
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