Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Choice Review

It's almost weird how pleasantly diverting The Choice is in its very very few best scenes. The film never really becomes good (at its best, it rises to the level of "average") but its never painful to watch, and there's some legitimately talented actors putting in solid work in service of a screenplay that chows down on story cliches like there's no tomorrow. For all the pearls of good o'l southern wisdom its characters drop all the time, it wouldn't have hurt to take a cue from some axiom that praised the virtues of originality.

In this 11th feature film adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks romance novel, Travis (Benjamin Walker) is a South Carolina residing individual who just can't commit to anything, an impediment likely stemming from his mothers impromptu passing. But his life is turned upside down when his new neighbor turns out to be a young lady named Gabby (Teresa Palmer), whose more reserved tendencies are telegraphed by the fact that she's introduced listening to classical music, reading books and wearing glasses. What a square! Despite her already being in a committed relationship, a romance sparks between the two that hinges entirely on.....CHOICES.

From that plot description, you can likely guess every step of the romance between the two. They start out bickering, she thinks he's hard-headed, then they keep unexpectedly running into each other, then they go on some dates, they eventually fall in love, later they bone, etc. As I've said countless times before (and will continue to say in the future), cliches are not an inherently bad thing, you've just gotta execute them in an interesting fashion with compelling characters. There's really no effort to present these well-worn tropes in a unique manner, but certain scenes are pretty pleasant to watch mainly because Palmer commits 100% to making sure her character becomes something more than a hodgepodge of stereotypes.

Mission accomplished on that front, since Gabby becomes the only individual in the film to really have a presence worth noting mainly thanks to Palmers performance. The other half of the central romance, Travis, doesn't fare nearly as well, his accent and mannerisms seemingly going for Matthew McConaughey-lite, but coming off more as unintentionally humorous in the process. Tom Wilkinson also pops by as the father of Travis, with a brief subplot involving Travis trying to get his father a girlfriend that doesn't contribute anything to the overall narrative or themes of the feature film.

Honestly though, for much of the running time The Choice is a pain-free journey into sweetness, with a solid lead actor (Teresa Palmer), some nice South Carolina scenery and a bunch of adorable puppies making the time go by quicker than expected. Then, after one of the most awkward marriage proposal scenes in recent memory (which occurs after Travis and Gabby have each known each other for only a month or two),  we flash forward, I believe, eight years, and Gabby is then involved in a car crash and finds herself in a coma. So, basically, the only character worth giving a damn in this film about is now lying comatose in a hospital bed, leaving the audience stuck with Travis moping on beaches for the remainder of the running time.

Hell, even the director, Ross Katz, seems to realize things aren't going well, so he attempts to use slow-motion constantly in order to force some "intense drama" into the film. This part of the feature just becomes such a slog to get through, and the rest of the motion picture isn't good enough to justify such a tedious conclusion. To be sure, The Choice has a few good elements in it (it at least has the smarts to have two super cute pugs make a quick cameo, which is never a bad idea), but they're just not enough to combat the overall monotony that grips the production. Most of this endeavor is just so blatantly going through the motions, and that's just no way to be in either a romance or when one is making a feature film.

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