The Choice – Review (* 1/2)

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You pretty much know what you’re getting into with a movie based on a Nicholas Sparks novel, but even for those low standards, here’s one that begs its audience to invest emotionally in two protagonists who just might be, well, terrible people.

Travis (Benjamin Walker) is a dreamy veterinarian living in a sleepy coastal town in North Carolina when his new neighbour, Gabby (Teresa Palmer), catches his eye. However, she’s got a charming yet apparent workaholic boyfriend, Ryan (Tom Welling), and so when Ryan is away on business, Gabby can no longer deny her feelings for Travis.

Though in many respects The Choice is your usual frothy Sparks movie, complete with pleasant cinematography, decent acting and a respected, older supporting actor earning the easiest paycheque of their lives (in this case it’s Tom Wilkinson), it also has one major dramatic hurdle that audiences may be unable to get past; Travis and Gabby are kinda shitty human beings.

The movie half-assedly argues that their love is “special”, and so we shouldn’t care that Gabby cheats on her perfectly affable boyfriend, but the movie doesn’t take a particularly sympathetic approach to Ryan’s heartbreak either. The script completely glosses over him as a character, even if it doesn’t take the usual easy way out of either making him a cardboard villain or magically matching him up with another woman to make it all seem OK.

Though Walker and Palmer have solid chemistry, it’s just not very interesting to watch their easy love unfold, at least until one horrifying and hilarious mid-film sequence in which Travis quite literally bullies Gabby into agreeing to marry him. Like so many things in this film, the filmmakers clearly think they’re nailing romantic, when in actual fact it’ll surely prove insipid and even downright unpleasant to all but the most sappy of audiences.

Then there’s the inevitable third-act tragedy which leads to a quasi-supernatural resolution, although thankfully it’s nowhere near as jaw-droppingly jarring as the ghost reveal in the infamous Safe Haven. Still, the film’s not a whole lot better, if only because at least Safe Haven featured two protagonists we could actually kinda-sorta root for. Here? They’re douchebags, which kills the thing from the second act onward.

Make the right Choice and simply don’t give this mulch your money.

* 1/2

The Choice is in cinemas now

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