Easiest one ever.
Take a Drink: every time someone looks at the stars, and a bonus shot if the stars are mentioned.
Do a Shot: every time Amanda starts crying.
Take a Drink: each time a character takes a drink. Ideally, drink whatever that character is having.
Do a Shot: every time you recognize something recycled from a different Sparks story.
By: Hawk Ripjaw –
The movie opens on the oil rig where adult Dawson (James Marsden) works. You know that Dawson is a good person because he reads Stephen Hawking, sends cash to an unknown person, stares at the stars, and saves people from fires. During one such occurrence of the latter, Dawson is thrown by an explosion into the water, where he miraculously survives for no reason whatsoever. Meanwhile, Amanda (Michelle Monaghan) lives in her house with her annoyingly sweet son and alcoholic finance-obsessed husband, who screams “asshole” so hard he could have passed off as one of Jane Spencer’s past husbands in a Naked Gun movie.
Flash back to the early nineties, where Dawson is a younger man (Luke Bracey) –and by “younger man” I mean “25-year-old unsettlingly trying to pass off as a high school boy.” Young Dawson, who bears such a hilarious lack of resemblance to his older counterpart it’s almost its own running joke, loves to read physics textbooks, which at this point is starting to indicate a vaguely unsettling psychotic interest in things that supervillains might be interested in if they don’t get to date the teenage virgin and get pushed to the brink of madness. Young Amanda (Liana Liberato) sees Dawson’s majestic hair and decent muscles, suspects he has a pretty great cock, and manhandles the shy guy into a date.
Dawson’s family are a handful of guys that auditioned to be on Duck Dynasty but couldn’t grow good enough beards so now they sit around on their land filled with chained up barking dogs, shooting things and listening to the soundtrack to Boardwalk Empire. Dawson’s dad beats him and runs drugs, so Dawson escapes to a random shed and sleeps in a car there with no explanation. He is awakened by a gun barrel with an old man named Tuck (Gerald McRaney) at the other end. Tuck is a widower who takes a shine to Dawson, and lets him stay at his house. When Dawson’s folks come to get him, Tuck shoots their truck, which is the #1 Cardinal Sin in the Redneck Bible. Tuck ends up being the coolest landlord ever, encouraging the romance between Dawson and Amanda and letting them bang in his house all for the low, low price of Dawson having to tend the rose bushes in the garden that Tuck’s wife used to take care of.
In the present day, a lawyer with a voice like the finest velvet calls our heroes to tell them that Tuck has finally bitten the dust and they need to go to their old hometown to get the will and become slaves to lazy plot devices. Obviously they bang, but since Dawson is a gentleman he keeps his pants on and his penis is digitally removed. Either that or they dry humped. I’m not sure. They also cry and talk about their feelings and regrets.
In the past (approximately nine hours into the movie), things happen which land Dawson in prison (changed from the book, actually, to be stupider. Hint–someone important dies, literally no one is surprised). Dawson doesn’t want Amanda to wait for him to get out so he hangs up the Prison Phone and walks away. Prison romance is hard. Amanda visits him as often as she can, with no response.
Now that we’re in the present day, we finally understand the huge twist of why the couple was separated and why Amanda is angry at Dawson, even though it was revealed in literally every trailer for the movie.
The Best of Me does one thing right, and it’s the same thing every Sparks movie does right: cast attractive actors. The core quartet is damned good looking, particularly the younger pair (Luke Bracey has HELLA GOOD ABS). Their chemistry, too, is quite good.
Also, Tuck rocks. I’d totally chill with that guy.
Believe it or not, I didn’t have to exaggerate that plot synopsis very much. The Best of Me features drama so absurdly overwrought, it stands to make Hallmark Channel movie producers seethe with envy. This is worse than Message in a Bottle’s “she finds an apology letter after he dies.” Worse than any of those patented Sparks terminal illness plot twists. This is like if Jane Austen was majorly depressed and smoked a ton of crack.
At one point, Dawson makes a magnificent post-coital breakfast for Amanda consisting of Ultra French Toast topped with a halved strawberry that, were this a Stanley Kubrick film (God forbid) would be certainly be a vagina allegory, or something. This just a couple of scenes after Dawson is shown to be comically incapable of even chopping an onion.
Even by Nicholas Sparks standards, this is mercilessly boring. The Notebook has the (admittedly wonderful, yet still kinda boring) story of two people just falling in love and growing old together. The Best of Me not only recycles the “poor guy and rich girl fall for each other” bit, but does so in a frustratingly plodding way. It also rips off the “kissing in the rain” thing too. What is it with girls and doing shit in the rain?
The movie spends a solid hour not accomplishing a single damn thing, running circles around itself so Dawson and Amanda can frolic around and enjoy the early 90s as a couple without a care in the world. Intermittently, there are minor peripheral obstacles to the relationship, such as Amanda’s dad offering Dawson $18,000 to break up with his daughter.
Of course it’s a staple of romantic films, but such a trope does not give The Best of Me a pass on dialogue so bad, it’s something your high school girlfriend would say in an effort to sound cool when really she’s just saving face because she’s secretly fucking her ex. A taste of some of the lines from the film:
“How can I fall in love with you again if I never stopped?” (runs away crying)
“At the end of it all, I can say what it was like to love someone.”
“I have to leave but I don’t know how to say good-bye!” (runs away crying again)
I would rather that I be forced to watch The Notebook every day for the rest of my life than be subjected to this dialogue again.
The ending to The Best of Me is one of the worst endings ever committed to film. Even I can understand that this is the type of stuff that Sparks fans devour, but that doesn’t excuse the movie from botching this ending worse than Tim Burton’s remake of Planet of the Apes.
Hell, I love a good tragic ending. It’s why I keep dating abusive women. But at least “I was just using you to satisfy a physical need” makes sense. This ending crashes into the existing plot like the Kool-Aid guy on a raging man-period, exploding out of left field and not making a damn bit of sense. There’s “Nicholas Sparks shoehorning dumbass tragedy into his story,” and then there’s this movie. It’s almost shocking that anyone actually considered it good.
How do women like this shit? Sparks is a mean-spirited, misogynistic asshole. In his world, all women are damaged, troubled, or weak creatures that cannot be complete until they get a dick inside them. These are ferociously dependent women that need a guy to claim them if they have any hope of validation. It’s disgusting. The Best of Me is arguably the worst offender of all of them. While in other Sparks stories the females have some sense of individuality, strength, or the ability to pull a troubled man from the depths of his own darkness, here Amanda can’t make a decision to save her life, spends almost literally a third of the movie’s scenes crying, and when she cheats on her husband with Dawson, it is she, not Dawson, who is guilty.
I am broken.
Look, I don’t mind romance. Her was my favorite movie of last year. Punch-Drunk Love is one of my all-time favorites, and Casablanca, High Fidelity, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and It Happened One Night are classic romances. The Best of Me is not. Crippling boredom, infuriating plotting, and idiotic, flimsy characters.
It’s horrible, in every single sense of the word.