LUCKY ONE, THE
After a fierce battle in Iraq, US Marine Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) sees a photo in the rubble and goes to pick it up - a move that saves his life. He carries the photo - of a pretty young blonde - everywhere he goes and survives his third tour of duty. He vows to find the girl in the photo once back home and soon tracks her down to the Green Kennels, where the now separated Beth (Taylor Schilling) lives with her grandmother Nana (Blythe Danner) and young son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). Beth is grieving for her brother, missing in action for a year, also in Iraq. With Logan's arrival, Beth's life begins to change for the better - but her ex, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) is hovering over her and threatening to destroy her newfound stability.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mr. Perfect fixes up derelict tractors, trains dogs, plays piano, mends dilapidated shacks and boats ... and broken hearts. He's an ex Marine who can also disarm a drunken Sheriff if needs be. He's now on a peaceful tour of duty to find the girl whose photo seemed to have saved his life on the battlefield, when he went to pick it out of the rubble.
Finding the girl in big ole America turns out to be surprisingly easy, but telling her the real reason he turns up on her doorstep is not. He can't manage to find the words ... which plants the seeds of a problem he has to face later on. Through a lucky misunderstanding, Beth (Taylor Schilling) thinks that Logan (Zac Efron) is responding to an ad for help around her kennels. So, with the urging of her Nana (Blythe Danner) Beth takes him on - and a relationship slowly begins to simmer.
Scott Hicks certainly knows how to manipulate his audience, with tools ranging from love ballads over montages of beautiful Hamden and its North Carolina environs, to lots of cute kid moments with 8 year old Keith (Riley Thomas Stewart), from her busted marriage to the aforementioned Sheriff, Keith (Jay R. Ferguson). Danner is comfortably authoritative as the Nana who encourages Beth to find her backbone (standing up to Keith) and her heart (standing by her new man, Logan).
The emotional fuel includes the ghost of the dead soldier, the broken marriage, the cute little boy, and the tension between Keith the bully and the family that he is locked out of. But everything is so beautiful - from the garden to the house to the animals in the kennels - that we feel we are in a fairyland.
Unashamedly a chick flick, The Lucky One can be a trifle irritating with its characters' actions, but it's all in the service of delivering a romantic story couched in highly romanticised cinematic terms.
Review by Louise Keller:
The leafy autumn colours of Hamden, North Carolina, form a picturesque backdrop for this moody tale about loss, love and renewal. The setting may be tranquil, but the underlying emotions expressed in Nicholas Sparks' novel are anything but, with complex themes involving relationships, passions and unresolved issues. Just like director Scott Hicks' last film The Boys Are Back (2009) which canvassed emotional chaos, this adaptation by Will Fetters (Remember Me) concentrates on the undercurrents and tumultuous waves of emotion in which its characters are swept.
Sparks is best remembered for writing the tearjerker The Notebook, although without exception, each of his novels adapted to film (Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and The Last Song) use grief and conflict as a central focus. The trouble with Fetter's screenplay is that crucial elements are not revealed until the end. In particular, the relationship between Beth Clayton (Taylor Schilling), the pretty blonde stranger in the photograph that Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) finds during his tour of duty in the marines, and the soldier whose loss she grieves, is not satisfactory explained when the information is most needed. Additionally, Beth's relationship with her bullying estranged Sheriff husband Keith Clayton (Jay R. Ferguson) doesn't always convince; Beth's intimidation by his threats to challenge her custody of their son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart) is credible only to a point.
Those reservations aside, there is much to enjoy in Hicks' controlled and skillfully made film in which there are moments of strong emotional resonance. It's beautiful to look at with gorgeous cinematography by Alar Kivilo (The Ice Storm, The Blind Side) and Mark Isham's restrained and delicate score enhances the mood and fragility of the developing relationships. There is never any doubt as to where the relationship between Logan and Beth is heading but it's nicely done and there's a tangible spark between them. As friendship blossoms into something more, the mood takes on a romantic longing with the sex scenes presented as a beautiful piece of art. Efron has an appealing, understated appeal with his bewitching baby blues framed with long spidery lashes and he delivers on every count. Schilling is convincing as the emotionally vulnerable Beth, while Foster (who played Mel Gibson and Jodie Foster's young son in The Beaver) is a natural as Ben. Blythe Danner is a lively presence as the knowing, supportive Nana.
As we are told at the beginning of the film, it is the smallest thing that can change a life - in this case, luck, destiny and love have something to do with it.
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LUCKY ONE, THE (M)
CAST: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Joe Chrest, Riley Thomas Stewart
PRODUCER: Denise Di Novi, Kevin McKormick
DIRECTOR: Scott Hicks
SCRIPT: Will Fetters (novel by Nicholas Sparks)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Alar Kivilio
EDITOR: Scott Gray
MUSIC: Mark Isham, Hal Lindes
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Barbara Ling
RUNNING TIME: 101 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 19, 2012