I've got, in my hands, the posters for the last eight movies adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels. They're glossy, pristine, and have that fresh from the printer smell. Don't you love that smell? Just a hint of tang mixing in with that old wood after-burn that makes you feel like you're going back to the library.
Can you tell me, without looking at my delicate hands, which poster doesn't feature a couple about to kiss? I mean, kissing is a necessary biological function for those potential breeders, and damn fun for those who aren't, but I wonder how many people are lured in by the same poster and trailer. Millions, apparently. I don't know if you're one of the millions who can tell the difference between one film and the next, if so I don't know why you would have watched this one over any of the others, which is why I have these questions. Why watch the same story again and again?
I recently had a pretty energetic conversation with one of my podcast partners about films and television as comfort food. As much as I dislike it, Nicholas Sparks adaptations fill that niche of people who just want to see pretty people kiss and then one of them maybe, possibly, die. I mean, love is a splendorous thing, I should be happy that audiences would rather watch two people kiss instead of dying. After all, one of my favorite quotes about these bits of lightweight nonsense comes from Roger Ebert, who said of a bad but pleasing film, "...if there is anything nature abhors more than a vacuum, it is a loving couple kept asunder, when they should be sundering."
Here they are, the man (Josh Duhamel), and the woman (Julianne Hough), sundering away for more than half the film. The second date they are on they have one of those pristine sex scenes where penetration is gentle and concealed visually by the sheet and through the audio by the soundtrack. I hoped that one of them would be enjoying themselves enough to overwhelm the pleasant music in the background, but I guess it's difficult to enjoy yourself as a character in a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, since death is just around the corner.
That's another facts of Sparks fiction that strikes me as a touch selfish to an unreasonable degree. Even if the lovers succeed in their goal of sundering, one, the other, or a close relative / friend has to die. Now, best case scenario, if you had to pluck a random name out of a hat and have that relation die instantly, would you be able to kill someone with little conscience for your love? I don't expect you to answer that because that's a preposterously difficult situation that no one should have an answer for. Yet, time and again, here we are in these damn films watching people making those choices with little effort.
The studious among you have noted I have said little about Safe Haven. It's because there is almost nothing to be said. I'm Indifferent to the film because I knew the plot going in and had to create reasons to stay interested in watching it to the conclusion. Man and woman fall in love, they both have secrets, someone dies, maybe or maybe not it matters to one or the both of them. There's the potential for "boo hoo's" and a smiling cheek or two, but no feeling that's going to linger a week at the most.
Director Lasse Hallstrom, at least, gives me hope that Sparks must be a talented enough writer to give the impression he can provide a genuine twist. For the first fifteen minutes or so I thought that he was shooting a horror film. Yes, there's a bluntly manipulative reason for this, but maybe there's the potential of something different in his writing. I had hope, still, that maybe man and woman weren't right for each other for once and they had to flee from mutually assured destruction. The loud plops of the rain on the ground in the deep night gave me hope this might be the case.
That didn't happen. This is the same as all the others. Someone will die. Two people will fall in love. The credits will roll. Even with that ludicrous twist, you'll leave and forget the film appeared before your eyes.
I just hope I have more to say for the next Nicholas Sparks film. Lord knows I'd hate to repeat myself.