Michelle Monaghan   James Marsden   Luke Bracey   Liana Liberato   Gerald McRaney

The BEST of ME

 There isn’t much that can be said about the continuing film adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels, except that they get worse and worse.  The budget was $26 mil, and the box office take was $26 mil, so the films are not even making a profit anymore.  The Best of Me might be the worst yet, as it desperately tries to rekindle the same formula that made The Notebook such a hit.  What really sinks this fairytale story is the absence of appeal in the two stars.  Monaghan quite simply isn’t a good actor, and Marsden is unbelievable as the mature version of Luke Bracey.  “Will you do one thing for me, will you forgive yourself?”  There is no forgiveness after this one.

 In their high school youth, Amanda (Liberato) and Dawson (Bracey) were inseparable; she had her eye on him, and even though he was too shy and broken to ask her out, she helped him get to that point and to reevaluate his own self-worth.  Dawson comes from an abusive family of drug dealers, but finds a new father figure in local widower Tuck (McRaney).  Continually dragged back into his old life, the happiness Dawson found with Amanda and Tuck is ruined one fateful day.  Now in their early 40’s, Amanda and Dawson return to Tuck’s house for the reading of his will.  It’s the first time they have seen each other in two decades. “You couldn’t have gotten fat or bald?”, she says in anger.  “How do I fall back in love with you when I never stopped?”

 I had the same problem with The Notebook--the two actors playing the same character, and how they just don’t match up.  While Bracey could be a dead ringer for a young Christian Bale, he has nothing physically in common with Marsden (X-Men).  If the film has one highlight--and I’m reaching here--it’s Gerald McRaney wielding a shotgun through the entire film.  Years after his uplifting Christian television drama “Promised Land” and various bit parts in films, he hasn’t changed a bit.  One of the many problems plaguing this script is how we are embedded into the flashbacks, but then in the present day, they talk about the past.

 Every time Monaghan (Eagle Eye, Mission Impossible 3) is asked to cry or show any type of emotion, all we see is the regurgitation of acting classes she is running through in her mind.  There is never a moment where the script allows the viewer to take the film seriously.  As we spiral towards a very predictable Nicholas Sparks ending, it’s infuriating to see the ridiculous end coming from a mile away.  Romantic rain, a nearby body of water, kissing in a bed of tulips or on top of a water tower, and that final tragedy you are always fully aware of—these are the author’s trademarks—since the formula for all his stories are identical.  Even the movie posters are all the same.

 Final Thought – A new low for a Nicholas Sparks adaptation.

Grade D+

By: Dustin Chase