Review: The Lucky One (2012)

DIRECTOR: Scott Hicks.

CAST: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Adam LeFevre.

SYNOPSIS: While serving in Iraq, Logan Thibault (Efron) survives an attack after stooping down to admire a photo. Crediting it for saving his life, Logan heads out to find the girl, Beth (Schilling), in the picture that became his good luck charm throughout the conflict.

It’s hard to believe Scott Hicks was nominated for practically every Award under the sun for 1996’s Shine, when The Lucky One is such a messy jumble of screenplay, direction and, unfortunately, source material. With underwhelming surprises scattered throughout, The Lucky One sticks to a very basic and predictable formula for the most part, with the only real moment of threat and suspense tossed away with barely a second’s afterthought. With more checked shirts than your average Superdry, this adaptation of Nicholas Sparks’ novel is pretty to look at and charming enough, but unfortunately lacks much underneath.

Any expectations of this being a film centred on war should be immediately quelled, with no flashback scenes and everything packaged a little too neatly into the opening five minutes. Women and children may be screaming, but this is no Born On The Fourth Of July – this is Nicholas Sparks. In fact, any links to the war at all are held at a distance, with Taylor Schilling’s Beth only getting one real moment to even slightly let loose in frustration over her loss.

But Hicks should count himself lucky with the casting of Schilling who is both believable and affecting (when the script allows) in her maternal role, never whining or irritating as the single mother of Ben (Stewart) who thankfully seems to rely more on instinct than cues. With quite possibly the most perfect set of teeth in Hollywood, the comparisons between Schilling and Teri Polo are inescapable, especially when they share an onscreen relative in the form of the spirited Blythe Danner who threatens to steal the show at every turn.

One of the most two-dimensional characters in recent memory, villain of the piece, Keith (Ferguson), is only ever allowed the slightest flashes of empathy from the audience, but this is in no part the fault of the ensemble with Zac Efron suffering the most, unfortunately stuck in the position where he appeases his fanbase but has the rest of us ripping our hair out wishing the script and direction gave him more to do – which can only be a good thing on his part.

His Logan may be quiet to emphasise his ‘inner turmoil’, but the film’s major flaw is that it is left far too unclear just how important Beth’s photo was to him during the conflict – an error that Efron can only make up for so far with intense, lingering looks, assisted by his clenched (and perfectly chiseled) jaw. The three tours he served in are only mentioned in passing once and it is left to lighting and very short jean cutoffs to make Beth appear as an angel as opposed to the mental saviour she had quite obviously been.

Beth may discover a stoic presence in Logan, but the lines blur a little in his use as both lover and big brother to little Ben. While he may appear to be able to do everything known to man from playing the piano to fixing boats, don’t expect him to raise his wrists too quick. In fact, Efron doesn’t really have that much to play with, treated as little more than eye candy in the questionable 12A sex scenes that are guaranteed to have mothers of young teenagers shifting uneasily in their seats.

Never quite settling into any comfortable groove and often working as a small scale and inferior We Bought A Zoo (minus the tiger), don’t be surprised if you find your attention span thrown completely out of whack during the film’s 100 minutes. With ideas hinted at and never entirely followed through or explained, the film never fully feels grounded in reality and struggles to escape from a sense of lacking investment.

Any Sparks adaptation will always suffer by comparison to The Notebook, but The Lucky One tries too hard to pander to its demographic, frustratingly wasting a more than capable cast in its confusion over whether it wants to make you cry or serve as a love letter to Zac Efron’s abs.

VERDICT: 2/5

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