The Longest Ride

Directed by:  George Tillman, Jr.

Starring: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda, Melissa Benoist, and Lolita Davidovich

Nicholas Sparks is well known for romance novels that can be easily converted into date night movies.  The films based on Sparks’ bestselling novels always find an audience.  With dreamy leading men and sweeping love stories, Sparks wins over audiences despite the predictability of his tales.  The Longest Ride is arguably the best Nicholas Sparks’ adaptation since The Notebook.  

Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson) is finishing up her senior year at Wake Forest University in North Carolina.  She is focused on studying for finals and preparing for a summer art internship in New York.  Her sorority sisters convince her to take a night off and attend a local bull riding contest.  At the event, Sophia notices Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood).  Luke, one of the riders, is trying to stage a comeback after suffering severe injuries at the hand of a bull named Rango the previous year. Sophia and Luke have an instant connection.

Luke subsequently reaches out to Sophia and asks her out on a date.  Luke strides onto the Wake Forest campus wearing a cowboy hat and boots with a bouquet of flowers.  He whisks Sophia off to a secluded lake where he has planned a picnic.  When she shivers with cold, Luke jumps up and builds a fire.  He sweeps Sophia (and every woman in my theater) off of her feet with his southern charm.  The date is going swimmingly until Sophia mentions that she will be leaving for New York in two months.  Luke pulls back, unwilling to invest himself in a relationship with someone who will be living in another state soon.

As Luke drives Sophia home, he notices that a car has veered off of the road.  Luke and Sophia pull an elderly gentleman, Ira (Alan Alda), out of the car wreckage and take him to the hospital.  Luke leaves, but Sophia waits at the hospital for Ira to wake up.  She ends up forming a bond with Ira and he shares stories with her about the love of his life, Ruth.  As the film progresses, it follows the budding romance between Luke and Sophia and the bittersweet past love of Ira and Ruth.

Director George Tillman, Jr. delivers the standard Nicholas Sparks’ fare – young and old love, passion and weepy moments.  Tillman includes a few action sequences as well. The bull riding scenes are intense and interesting to watch.  Tillman captures the riders’ anxiety, the bull’s rage, and the complexity and “8 second” speed of the sport. Additionally, he rightfully focuses on the hotness of Scott Eastwood.  In the same way that The Notebook jettisoned Ryan Gosling into “Brad Pitt” territory, The Longest Ride should propel Scott Eastwood.  Putting aside that he comes from Hollywood royalty, Eastwood plays the romantic lead with easy charm, intensity and the right amount of swagger. With roles in Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman coming up, The Longest Ride is just the beginning for young Eastwood.  Alan Alda is also strong in the “James Garner” role, namely a grieving older man who has lost the love of his life.

With that being said, the movie is absolutely too long.  The back and forth between the past and present tales of love wears thin after about an hour, and there are some tedious stretches in the film where nothing really happens.  The film has a conveniently sweet ending, but there is something missing.  The conflict between both couples is nothing spectacular, and does not lead to anything particularly earth-shattering.  Ultimately, the film is a long ride to a simple ending.

The Longest Ride earns a 0.06% rating. I would not rush out to theaters to see it, but as Sparks’ films go, it is one of the better ones.  Have a beer with this one.