The 11th Nicholas Sparks’ novel to be turned into a film, this yet again chronicles the power and pitfalls of love. It spans a young couple’s rocky first meeting to an extended romance that will be tested as their lives take an unexpected turn.
When feisty medical student Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer from Warm Bodies) moves in next door to perennial ladies’ man Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker – In The Heart of the Sea), they embark upon a journey neither had imagined. Walker, a vet, just like his widowed father (Tom Wilkinson), has always believed a serious relationship would cramp his easygoing lifestyle, while Palmer is preparing to settle down with her long-term boyfriend, a doctor. That is until an irresistible attraction between Gabby and Travis upends both their well-ordered lives.
Spanning a decade and tracing the evolution of a love affair that is ultimately tested by life’s most defining events, this story is set in Sparks’ beloved North Carolina setting. The question asked is just how far would one go to keep the hope of love alive?
Directed by Ross Katz (Adult Beginners), it was written for the screen by Bryan Sipe (Demolition). Sparks first topped the New York Times bestseller in 1996 when his first novel, The Notebook, became a runaway hit. Since then, his books have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 50 languages. Those turned into movies include The Notebook, The Longest Ride, The Best of Me, Safe Haven, The Lucky One, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song. To date, pictures based on Sparks’ stories have grossed in excess of a billion Aussie dollars. They have also helped to ignite the careers of a generation of young actors such as Channing Tatum, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Zac Efron and Amanda Seyfried.
Nicholas Sparks Productions, launched in 2012 with Theresa Park, Sparks’ longtime literary agent and creative partner, oversaw the making of The Choice, the company’s first feature film.
Beautiful scenery notwithstanding, this has the look and feel of a female skewed weepie telemovie, plain and simple. Nothing Nicholas Sparks has done since even comes close to the best of breed The Notebook. You could sum up his shtick as follows: pretty girl meets hunky guy, they fall in love, but the path to true and lifelong happiness is filled with cobble stones and so it is just a matter of time before something bad happens. Then it is a question of how the guy deals with whatever form that bad takes.
The Choice has less twists and turns that I had hoped for or expected and in that regard I was a tad disappointed. The fact that in this case the girl, Teresa Palmer’s Gabby, is feisty and takes a bit of time to succumb to the he-man’s charms is perhaps its only saving grace. All the characters are saccharine sweet and basically lead saccharine sweet, well to do lives. They are one-dimensional.
Sparks, more than most writers, plays to a strict formula that has made him a lot of money and turned his prose into reasonably popular movies. So as long as people (read into that primarily young women) continue to buy his books and watch the films that are churned out as a result, I dare say he will keep on giving us more of the same. That doesn’t make anything he does all that inventive or particularly clever, although his output is nice enough to look at with striking actors and settings taking pride of place in the repertoire. Rated PG, The Choice scores a 5½ out of 10.
Director: Ross Katz
Cast: Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Tom Wilkinson
Release Date: 4 February 2016
Rating: PG – Mild themes, sex scene and coarse language
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television