(Published in The Sunday Guardian, 8 July 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/fodder-for-the-lovesick)
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Riley Thomas Stewart, Jay R. Ferguson, Blythe Danner
Director: Scott Hicks
Rating: 2.5 stars
If the poster didn’t tell you The Lucky One was a feel-good film, the opening lines do. As a boat sails quietly on the bluest-of-blue waters, banked by the reddest-of-red mud, Zac Efron’s voice says something about destiny, followed by, “Finding the light means you must pass through the deepest darkness.”
Next thing we know, we’re bitched into battle, with night vision lamps to show us a lot of Marines being killed by bearded men. Zac Efron’s Listerine-blue eyes appear horrified, awed, and dejected. We learn he’s Logan Thibault, a Marine who will complete three tours of duty in Iraq. And seeing them through it all is his “guardian angel” – a photograph of a smiling blonde he finds in the rubble after a night raid.
He believes it’s a good luck charm because stopping to pick it up saved him from being blown up. And the photograph was with him when he was left the sole survivor of a car bomb attack. Back in America, with severe PTSD that has him starting at the sound of gunshots in video games and almost strangling a kid who leaps on him, Logan doesn’t want therapy. Instead, he walks across America, hoping to find the girl in the photograph, so he can thank her. Whaddya know, he finds her.
This is where I’m beginning to wonder, “Dude, who wrote this?” It’s Nicholas Sparks, who also wrote The Notebook. A friend calls him “rom-com fodder”. Wikipedia describes him as the author of “16 published novels, with elements including cancer, death, pirates, and love.” No wonder he’s a bestseller. To its credit, this film doesn’t have all four elements. It has death, Marines and love. Also, a rogue cop (Jay R Ferguson), an omniscient grandmother (Blythe Danner), a precocious kid (Riley Thomas Stewart) and a single mum (Beth Green). Now, top that.
Watching this is like hearing Tom Cruise speak about Scientology – you’re constantly wondering if this guy believes the crap he’s selling. However, The Lucky One has the advantage of good actors, the idyll of the American South, mood music that glides along a story lubricated by the copious tears everybody sheds, and a looming task – how do you thank a woman because her face saved you, instead of the man it was meant to?
Efron excels at bringing out the angst of a man who’s destined to live with the guilt of being alive. We see something of the power structures of a small town before hurtling into the simplest ending.
The Verdict: If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, you’ll call this a well-made movie on an impossible premise.