The Longest Ride (2015)

The Longest Ride (2015)
  • Time: 139 min
  • Genre: Drama | Romance
  • Director: George Tillman Jr.
  • Cast: Britt Robertson, Scott Eastwood, Oona Chaplin, Alan Alda


Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, THE LONGEST RIDE centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke, a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia, a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City’s art world. As conflicting paths and ideals test their relationship, Sophia and Luke make an unexpected and fateful connection with Ira, whose memories of his own decades-long romance with his beloved wife deeply inspire the young couple. Spanning generations and two intertwining love stories, THE LONGEST RIDE explores the challenges and infinite rewards of enduring love.


  • I don’t read much and I’ve only seen three flicks adapted from Nicholas Sparks novels (A Walk to Remember, Message in a Bottle, and the one I’m currently reviewing). From what I’ve gathered, I know that any film he’s attached to usually takes place in North Carolina. I also know that every movie poster baring his name looks the same (hunky man puts his hands on beautiful woman’s face with his eyes somberly gazing at her). And I figure that every Sparks plot point involves young, syrupy love with romance touted as cotton candy confection. So does that qualify me to review 2015’s The Longest Ride? Sure, why not. It’s my job you know, to write about cinema. And surprisingly, this one is a “ride” worth getting on at least once.

    I faithfully qualify this vehicle as a long-winded, yet well-intentioned romantic drama. Its star is Scott Eastwood and you’re probably wondering why I nodded towards him right off the bat. Well, he’s the 29 year-old son of legendary actor Clint Eastwood. And with every profile turn, every aw-shucks smirk, and every story eyed resemblance, you swear it was Clint circa 1956. He’s got the looks, he’s got the screen presence, but the acting still needs a little work. Does he have the chops to become a full-blooded movie star? Oh for sure. It’s just a hunch but I’m thinking he’ll get there soon enough.

    Directed by George Tillman Jr. (Notorious, Men of Honor) and written by the same guy who was actually responsible for the script of a Miami Vice episode (Craig Bolotin), “Ride” has a title that doesn’t really involve bull riding (as the trailer wholeheartedly suggests). It’s much more than that. From what I got out of it, “the longest ride” refers to the journey of a person’s life. You know, the joys, the trials and tribulations, the labor of it all. This is a film where its characters are good people, attractive people, and have good fortunes coming their way. It all ties into the ending. I won’t reveal anything but the last ten minutes might make you feel jealous and mushy all at the same time. Pure saccharine gold if I do say so myself.

    The story begins by chronicling two opposites in Luke Collins (Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). He’s a bull rider who’s trying to become the best in the world. She’s a student at Wake Forest University and I guess, is either vowing to become a successful art dealer or just a well renowned artist in general. They meet at a rodeo, are attracted to each other, make assorted googly eyes towards one another, and eventually go on a date. But wait, how can they fall in love when she has to go away to New York City in a month? And what about Luke? He continues to participate in a violent sport where you’ve gotta hang on to a bucking bull for 8 seconds. He worries Sophia and his mother (Kate Collins played by Lolita Davidovich) as his health deteriorates. This creates a conflict and hinders their relationship almost kaput. So in an act of kismet, they are driving along a country road when they see a car accident and a older man (Ira Levinson played by Alan Alda. He is somehow also connected to the art world, wink wink) who is near death. Luke and Sophia save him from the burning wreck along with his collection of letters to his wife (these letters are in the front seat of his car). While recovering in a hospital, Ira tells stories to Sophia about how he fell in love with said wife over 50 years ago. He subliminally tries to help her relationship with her cowboy by doing this.

    The Longest Ride then veers into something I wasn’t expecting. It becomes a combination of two love stories, one told in present day and one told in flashbacks. The film kind of has an overbearing level of coincidence. It also contains a broken, arduous narrative as you anxiously wait to see how these two stories are fully connected. The sequences (shot with accurate period detail) from the past however, happened to be the best parts. Young Ira played by Jack Huston and wife Ruth (played by Oona Chaplin) inject “Ride” with a level of deepened maturity that sort of outplays the romantic interludes of Luke and Sophia. There are some genuine moments here. I didn’t need any handkerchiefs but during the screening I was at, I might have been in the minority.

    Now despite some strengths in The Longest Ride, the gleaming Carolina sunshine and picturesque landscapes can’t mask a flaw or two. For starters, this thing qualifies as yet another romantic drama where the female lead (Robertson) looks a little too young to subject herself to risque PG-13 love scenes (I’m sorry but it just came off as sort of creepy to me). There’s also the aspect in Sparks movies (including this one) where young couples fight over the most trivial things. It’s forced manipulation and in one scene, there is a tiff over whether paintings of squiggly lines are art or not. Oy vey! Finally, we have Alan Alda’s Ira who seems different in personality and mannerisms than his self over half a century ago. Huston plays the man as humble, good-natured, and solemn. Alda although a fine actor in his own right, shrugs off Ira as grumpy, cantankerous, and destitute. Maybe it’s the old age aspect of his character. Who knows.

    All and all, I’d say The Longest Ride serves as an admirable date night selection. If you can get past some of the earlier, cheesy dialogue and minor missteps in structure, there’s something more palatable beneath the surface. Oh and watch out for the bull riding scenes at various intervals. They are intense, mightily violent, and extremely well filmed. My rating: A harmless 3 stars.

    Rating: 3 out of 4 stars

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  • “I am an ordinary man who fell in love with an extraordinary woman.” That line from The Longest Ride sums up the apparently surefire appeal of Nicholas Sparks’ stories. Whatever the period, whatever the circumstance, the women are the suns around which men orbit. The women may face trials and tribulations in their loves, but they decide their fates, though they may believe otherwise. The men are either eternally grateful for being chosen, irreparably heartbroken at being passed over, or called upon to sacrifice their own personal happiness. Sometimes all of the above.

    In The Longest Ride, the latest product off the the conveyor belt, Sparks presents devotees with two romances. The first, which takes place in present day North Carolina, focuses on the blossoming love story between Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). Like most of Sparks’ lovers, Luke and Sophia come from two different worlds. He is a bull rider determined to make his way back to the top after being sidelined for nearly a year after a near-fatal injury. She is an art history major about to move to New York for an important internship. Sophia is taken with his old-fashioned ways and chiseled good looks – not to mention those rock hard abs! – but, like his mother (Lolita Davidovich), concerned for his safety in the ring. He’s impressed with her intelligence and all-around amazingness, but doesn’t exactly envision himself fitting in her tony and pretentious world. Why even take a chance at love if there’s no guarantee of a future together?

    Luckily, the youngsters come across Ira Levinson (the indispensable Alan Alda), whom they rescue from a roadside accident so he can inevitably counsel them on the ups and downs of life and love. He once had a great love, a cultured beauty named Ruth (Oona Chaplin) who arrived in America at the onset of World War II. The younger Ira (played by Jack Huston) was a mere tailor’s son who, like Luke, was not particularly passionate about art. Yet Ira loved Ruth and so he loved what she loved. But was their love strong enough to overcome wartime injuries, childlessness, and other heartbreaks?

    It seems pointless to comment on something specifically engineered to be withstand criticism. A Nicholas Sparks film is very much its own being, with its own rules and requirements. The director and the actors are there to serve the story and stick to the tried and true formula. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. A Sparks film offers escape the same way a Bond film or a Marvel movie or a Three Stooges comedy does. It will, whatever its failings, always offer some amount of satisfaction.

    By its own standards, The Longest Ride is not half-bad. Eastwood and Robertson are pretty people. Eastwood possesses his father’s Rawhide-era good looks, but this film is not where the actual measure of his talent can be determined. The same goes for Robertson, who knits her brows very attractively to indicate the limited spectrum of emotions defined in the script. Neither rise above the material in the way that Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams did in The Notebook or even Clint Eastwood and Meryl Streep did in The Bridges of Madison County. One can’t exactly be too emotionally invested when both Eastwood and Robertson appear to be going through the motions. They’re saying the words, they’re conveying the proper facial expressions, but they are both disconnected from their characters.

    Chaplin, on the other hand, is terrific. The granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin may be best known as Talisa Maegyr from Game of Thrones, but she has been an outstanding presence in other works such as the short-lived UK series The Hour and the British comedy program Dates. As Ruth, she is an absolute firecracker that brings the movie to life and nearly makes it better than it is. She and Huston also share a more convincing chemistry than their modern counterparts. Ira and Ruth’s story is the more interesting and further developed of the two romances on offer, and The Longest Ride stalls whenever it shifts focus away from them.

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