‘The Best Of Me’ — Michelle Monaghan deserves better

Published 9:19 am Friday, October 24, 2014

To say “The Best of Me” is cheesy, predictable and ridiculous is an understatement. To say “The Best Of Me” is the cheesiest, most predictable and ridiculous movie I have seen this year is much more accurate. At times, it felt like I was watching a Saturday Night Live parody of a Nicholas Sparks movie. In fact, during some of the film’s cornier moments, such as contrived shirtless scenes and lines like, “I’m gonna trust in the stars,” there was laughter in the audience (mostly coming from me). Don’t get me wrong, I love romantic films, but my brain can only take so much over-the-top, cringe-inducing melodrama. This isn’t the worst Sparks film, but it may be the final straw that broke this camel’s back.

Amanda and Dawson are high-school sweethearts who grew apart due to dramatic life events. Amanda now struggles to raise her son with an alcoholic husband, while Dawson works on an oil rig dreaming about… physics? When a father-figure to both passes away, the couple reunite in their hometown to settle his estate. Through flashbacks, we are shown how the couple met, fell in love and eventually grew apart. Will their new close quarters bring Amanda and Dawson together again or will this be another tragic Nicholas Sparks movie? I’ll let you guess.

Regardless of the fact that the film’s story/script is terrible, we need to talk about the elephant in the room movie. Who in their right minds decided to cast Luke Bracey as a young James Marsden? Not only does Bracey look like he’s 30-years-old, but he and Marsden look NOTHING alike. In fact, when the trailer for the film was first released, I had no idea the teenage characters were supposed to be younger versions of the adults. Liana Liberato looks enough like Michelle Monaghan to make it work, but the disconnect between Bracey and Marsden left the flashbacks incredibly distracting. When an adult Amanda tells Dawson, “Somehow you have gotten better looking,” I would like to think that is a wink to audiences.

Despite the casting blunder, what makes me the most angry about this film is Michelle Monaghan deserves SO much better. Monaghan is one of the most underrated actresses working today. Just look at her Oscar-caliber performance in this year’s under-the-radar indie “Fort Bliss.” While her performance in “The Best of Me” is as good as it possibly can be, Monaghan can only do so much. Thankfully, a hysterical ash-scattering scene, which may be one of my favorite of these types ever filmed, shows off Monaghan’s comedic chops and is a beacon of light in case you are dragged to the movie this weekend. Otherwise, wait for it to inevitably be uploaded on YouTube.

Am I a cynical monster? Debatable. But I think we all deserve so much more than this. Let’s stop giving Sparks carte blanche to create dumb romance films just because he created “The Notebook” and “A Walk To Remember.”

We should demand more than this lazy, preposterous storytelling. It’s time for Sparks’ movies to earn our trust again. Do yourself a favor and rent “Fort Bliss” instead (it’s only 99 cents on Amazon). That is a movie that earns your tears.

My Review: D

LAUREN BRADSHAW grew up in Courtland, graduated from Southampton Academy and doubled-majored in foreign affairs and history at the University of Virginia. She lives in the Washington, D.C., and can be reached at lnb5e@virginia.edu.