Brian Henry Martin at the movies

Is Romance Dead?

Published Thursday, 03 May 2012
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Have we become too cynical for romantic movies? Or have romantic movies lost the power to pull at our heartstrings?

Hoping to woo us this week is an old-fashioned love story, The Lucky One, starring High School Musical heartthrob Zac Efron.

Could this be the movie to make us fall in love with love stories again?

Last month's re-release of Titanic reminded us that many of cinema's most memorable moments have been the passionate embrace of doomed lovers: whether it be Jack and Rose on the ship of dreams, or Alec and Laura in the steam filled station of Brief Encounter, or Rick and Ilsa on the deserted runway in Casablanca.

One man who has done more than most to keep the flame alive is best selling American author Nicholas Sparks. Over the last 15 years, eight of his sixteen novels have been made into soppy movies including Nights in Rodanthe, Message In A Bottle and Dear John. Best of all is the overwrought passion of The Notebook starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams. Even grown men have cried at this rousing tear-jerker.

The last time I saw Zac Efron was in the worst movie of last year, the truly dreadful New Year's Eve, which still has me reaching for the sick bag. While that was an ensemble blunder, The Lucky One is a lead role for the young star, so time to forgive but not forget.

The film begins with Zac in Iraq as a young US Marine, Logan, who, amongst the devastation of war, finds a photograph in the rubble. The dusty snapshot is of a beautiful young woman standing in front of a lighthouse with the simple message of 'keep safe x' scribbled on the back.

The mysterious girl becomes his guardian angel as he battles his way through a third tour of duty before returning home. Then, his mission is of the heart, to find the girl of his dreams.

This he does quite easily. Accompanied by his Alsatian Zeus, they walk from Colorado to Carolina, home of the lighthouse. And there, amongst the pastoral splendour running a five star dog kennel is Beth (played by Taylor Schilling). As always, the path to true love does not run smoothly and Efron has to begin his courtship by cleaning dog mess out of the cages.

What follows from there is the typical Nicholas Sparks storyline with chance encounters, mistaken identities and lost love in the familiar Carolina setting. This Mills and Boon-like movie formula is so recognisable that you can almost write the next scene yourself as you watch

Director Scott Hicks of the Oscar winning Shine spends most of his time either focusing on the endless golden light through autumn trees or highlighting the frosted blue in Zac Efron's intense gaze.

The Lucky One unfortunately is just too corny to be a classic. At its heart, Zac Efron's character and performance skips a beat. Logan is simply beyond perfect; not only is he a handsome war hero but he also reads philosophy, plays music, can fix tractors and boats, is kind to animals and children, is a great lover and even does the dishes!

Hello ladies, have you ever met a man like this?

And Efron the actor is Tom Cruise-lite. Beyond the blue eyes and man-scaped stubble, you are left with an actor who simply pauses on screen when he is not speaking. It is quite an unusual sight and one that may win female fans but certainly no acting awards.

If romance is not yet dead, I'm finding it hard to find a pulse.

The Lucky One (Cert 12a) is now on general release.

© UTV News
B. H. Martin
B. H. Martin

Brian Henry Martin is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and UTV's resident film critic, appearing regularly on UTV Live Tonight.

No matter what the film, there's a good chance Brian has seen it.


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