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Nicholas Sparks has more than a fair share of romantic weepy films for love story addicts to choose from, the latest being The Best of Me starring James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan in a predictable tissue grabbing movie. Set in Louisiana it features the age old cliche of star crossed young lovers where the boy is from the wrong side of the tracks and the girl comes from a monied background. Her father offers to buy off the teenage boy she loves, but as things turn out, that futile and infuriating gesture was not really necessary.
Granted, the film is for the most part one long cliche, but having said that, the performances are impressive and there are some pretty decent variations to the age old theme. The Best of Me focusses upon Dawson Cole and his over 20 year connection with his first real love Amanda Collier whose face he sees when an oil rig explosion tosses him 100 feet into the water where he should have died.
While recovering from his accident Dawson receives a call about the death of an old friend at around the same time as Amanda. The two go through some remembrances of their youthful first love and the connection that they had with the friend Tuck Hostetler, played by Gerald McRaney (Longmire, House of Cards), who left something for both of the former lovers. That something is a chance to reignite that old spark from their teenage romance.
The film looks back at the younger Amanda and Dawson, where they “meet cute” over broken down cars. Of course The Best of Me focusses fairly equally between the grown lovers, James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan who work well as the adult’s with a mixture of good and bad memories of their teenage romance. While this weepy, tear jerker is predictable, the acting of all concerned is top notch.
Aussie actor Luke Bracey does a brilliant job as the younger version of Dawson Cole and Liana Liberato knocks it out of the park as the teenaged Amanda. The two actors have a very believable chemistry onscreen in The Best of Me and in terms of casting they do look like younger versions of the film’s adult stars.
This romance does have quite a lot to offer, there are a few good fight scenes and some shooting. Obviously included as incentive for male moviegoers to take their girlfriends, wives or significant others to the film. Arguably, despite the action that has been included for whatever reason, some of the movie’s characters are a bit two dimensional. Cole’s father and two brothers being a perfect example, a family of backwoods baddies who have no redeeming qualities whatsoever and no depth at all.
In terms of The Best of Me‘s plot and character development for young Dawson, his family life is rotten and he was abused by his father and that is all the film feels required to show with little in the way of reality pertaining to the nasty patriarch that the teenager runs away from. Sean Bridgers plays Tommy Cole with an all knowing smug look on his character’s face that manufactures instant dislike, but that is as far as it goes. It is not, however, the actor’s fault so much as the part he had to play.
The Best of Me has been almost universally panned. This negative reaction is really unfair to James Marsden, Luke Bracey, Michelle Monaghan, and Liana Liberato, not to mention Gerald McRaney who should get some sort of gong for his work in this film, all these actors brought much to this predictable weepy romance. It should be mentioned that what the film got right was the overpowering feeling of young love, like at least one other film this year, the movie captures that feeling of perfection and the youthful belief that the romance was meant to be. The Best of Me opens October 17, be prepared to go through boxes of tissues as you laugh a little and cry a lot.
By Michael Smith
Red Regal Rock Casino