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The Lucky One: Cheesy Chick Flick
We’ve all seen, at the very least, one Nicholas Sparks film which is enough to figure out the formula that has probably made him into a millionaire by now. While they’re usually super cheesy, they sweep you along in a torrent of emotion. You laugh, you cry, you swoon and you leave the cinema happy. But even with adjusted expectations, The Lucky One isn’t particularly entertaining.
The film is completely centred on the romance and so there’s absolutely nothing to distract from Zac Efron’s zombie-like state. Or from the film’s frightfully cheesy dialogue. Or from the fact that it packs a whole hoard of clichés into an hour and a half in a desperate plea to activate our tear ducts.
Efron plays Logan, a marine stationed in some Arab country (turns out to be Iraq) fighting the scary brown men. The morning after an ambush, he finds a picture of a blonde chick with the words ‘keep safe’ on the back. He carries the picture around with him everywhere, like a talisman, and lo and behold, he cheats death several times while a ton of people around him die. Traumatized, he returns to America with the aim of finding the girl in the picture and thanking her for being his guardian angel. He tracks her down, is unable to show her the picture or tell her why he’s there, takes a job near her and they soon fall in love. The blonde girl turns out to be a single mum by the name of Beth (Schilling) who has an abusive ex who keeps threatening to take their kid away from her and who doesn’t like the fact that she’s seeing Logan.
Out of the two leads, Taylor Schilling is definitely the least offensive, though Blythe Danner, as Beth’s grandmother, despite being the most watchable person on screen, was a rather head scratching piece of casting. Beth’s mother would be understandable but grandmother? Either she’s found the fountain of youth or Beth looks far older than she actually is. Schilling’s character fluctuates between brave, selfless mother and helpless female, both of which only require her to stand around looking pretty which isn’t exactly difficult for someone who looks like Katy Perry’s blonde twin. All in all, she’s pleasantly bland. Efron on the other hand looks like a buff, tanned corpse. His character is supposed to be grieving for all the friends he lost on duty but what we get from Efron is a complete lack of emotion. When he’s not showing off just how nice he is by playing with Beth’s kid, he’s standing around blank faced, looking stiff. Resembling a teenager isn’t helping his cause much either.
The lack of tension is what really does the film in though. The Notebook had a sense of urgency about it. You genuinely rooted for the couple to be together even though they weren’t necessarily pleasant characters. Part of that was Amy McAdams and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry which Efron and Schilling lack but on the other hand there was an actual obstacle keeping them apart. In The Lucky One, their troubles are more hiccups than roadblocks.
This film is really only recommended for die hard Nicholas Sparks fans or people who don’t mind staring at beautiful actors, sun drenched scenery and a gaggle of adorable dogs in lieu of a decent story. Stay away if you’re prone to incessant eye rolling.
Rough around the edges and not as ‘focused’ is it could be (ha!), the team behind entertaining, but flawed, 2011 rom-com, Crazy, Stupid, Love, apply the comedy treatment to action flick, Focus.
This is not by any means an intellectually challenging film, but, no matter how predictable and fluffy its premise may be, it still boasts plenty of energy and holds enough charm to maintain engagement.
Jess Barrett (Robbie) is an inexperienced grifter, who – after trying and failing to con the ultimate conman himself, Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) – insists that he take her under his wing.
As Jess slowly proves herself, she is recruited by Nicky and his crew, though their business relationship briefly turns into a romantic one; but after a successful one million dollar heist during the Super Bowl in New Orleans, they part ways, leaving Jess heartbroken.
Three years down the line, the story moves to Buenos Aires where Nicky is preparing another huge con – so huge in fact, that he seeks out Jess once more.
Slick and glossy, Focus is best enjoyed if you don’t think too much about its inner-workings; if you do allow yourself to get way inside its shallow mechanisms, however, you’ll almost certainly walk away feeling a little underwhelmed with the entire experience. The dialogue is quite often sharp and witty, but the film isn’t in the same mould as the recent heist-clicks like Ocean’s Eleven; there’s more of a focus on the two main characters and their evolving relationship and it can be argued that this is one of its biggest mistakes for the simple reason that there just isn’t enough room for complex arcs in a film that brings a very particular type of action movie together with comedy.
Despite this, there are still plenty of memorable set-pieces and, as the dexterous and charming Nicky, Smith is his usual magnetic self, though he doesn’t stray far from his usual routine. Standing strong by his side is his equally magnetic Aussie co-star, Margot Robbie, who once again proves that she is capable of holding her own amongst some of Hollywood’s biggest names. The pairing, though seeming inapt at first, carries the film through to be a one-hundred-and-four minute of easy watching – it’s a typical cinema-and-popcorn movie that doesn’t try to be more than it is.
Formidable, heartfelt and elegant are just a few words one can use to describe Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as woman coming to grips with Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. Based on Lisa Genova’s novel of the same name, the devastating truths behind this silent yet deadly disease are passionately explored by the writing-directing duo Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, whose uncomplicated and honest portrayal provides the story with plenty of grace and power.
As a highly successful and respected professor of linguistics at Columbia University, the fifty year old Dr. Alice Howland (Moore) has always held a high regard for communication and the intricate workings of the human mind. There are only two things in life that she treasures the most; her sense of intellect – a part of herself that is constantly fed – and her husband, John (Baldwin), and their three children, Anna (Bosworth), Tom (Parrish) and Lydia (Stewart).
During a visit for a lecture, Alice soon begins to notice signs of memory loss after words fail her during her speech. A series of memory tests soon confirm the worst; a particularly rare Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease with a genetic component, meaning her kids might have it, too.
Eating away at her one small bite at a time, Alice is determined not to let her disease erase everything she holds dear. However, as she descends further and further into her own absent-mind there is nothing anyone can do except sit and watch her disappear.
Still Alice’s story is straightforward, refreshingly honest and doesn’t play on sympathy in its approach to the lead character’s personal sense of shame and indignity as she falls further and further away from everything that has helped shape her into what she is today. Moore’s towering performance – a sublime and authentic one at that – carries the film and watching her confront this alienating illness is touching and heartbreaking.
It’s by no means a perfect film and its shortcomings, if you can even really call them that, come in the shape of the two-dimensionality of the other characters; Baldwin is a little plain as the caring but overly passive husband and Stewart is her emotionless self as the rebellious black sheep of the family.
However, whatever their weaknesses may be, the focus is on Moore and her riveting and beautifully-layered performance which ultimately, makes Still Alice a grand and striking drama.