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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Choosing “The Choice”? think again


Susanne Bushman, Copy Editor

Is any Nicholas Sparks movie complete without a tragedy? The newest adaptation of one of Sparks’ books, “The Choice,” reminds viewers of the impending doom of the heroine in the opening scene showing the male protagonist arriving at a hospital bearing flowers. Though really, this opening scene establishes that the real tragedy of this movie is the lackluster dialogue and painfully obvious religious moralizing.

The plot of “The Choice” is set up as many Nicholas Sparks films begin: boy meets girl, it’s extremely obvious that they like each other—though the lack of on-screen chemistry leaves this up to the filmmakers to make clear—but for some reason they resist their attraction. This particular set of lovers, Travis and Gabby, (played by the most attractive people they could get for this movie) are new neighbors in a small coastal town in North Carolina, annoyed by each other’s disparate lifestyles. Travis is shown as a salt of the earth guy, drinking beer, grilling out and listening to loud music which disturbs the more uptight Gabby’s studying for medical exams. Unlike previous Sparks’ adaptations, the male lead is not universally attractive, though for plot purposes everyone pretends that he is.

movie review graphicAlso standing in the way of true love are Travis and Gabby’s boring current significant others. Bringing them together are, the best part of the movie in my opinion, their adorable dogs.

Action picks up when Gabby’s cute but boring doctor boyfriend leaves town and she and Travis spend a blissful month together, falling in love.

Up to this moment, I can almost get behind this couple. Sure, the dialogue is forced and the actors have almost no believable chemistry. (Their conversation is filled with non-sequiturs and decidedly non-endearing jabs at each other.) At this point in the story, however, the very construction of the plot no longer feels believable and the romantic hero I’m supposed to swoon over becomes too misogynistic for me.

Gabby’s boyfriend returns home, Travis finds out that she never broke up with him, they fight, Travis tells Gabby he loves her and somehow Gabby nearly immediately ends up engaged to doctor boyfriend.

Of course, Travis is encouraged to “fight for her,” and he decides to propose to her. Surprisingly enough, she says no. He demands she say yes. She says no. And so on, and so on, until eventually she says, “Okay.” Travis’ inability to take no for an answer and his silencing of Gabby’s wishes are just the beginning of this movie’s demise.

Remembering that no good Nicholas Sparks love story is complete without some kind of brush with death, many years into their marriage, during which they do not age a day, Gabby is in a car accident—after being stood up on a date with her husband—and goes into a coma. Naturally, her husband, two children and parents are devastated. While I somewhat enjoyed the first part of the movie, at this point I would have preferred a coma, too.

Travis, however, is forced into a moral dilemma. Gabby, presumably actually a doctor at this point (though that plot point mysteriously disappeared along with their forced class conflict/any chance of this movie being redeemable) left instructions that she did not want to be kept on life support indefinitely, should this kind of event take place. Once again, however, Gabby’s wishes mean nothing to Travis and he keeps her on the ventilator long after she’s likely to reawaken.

But of course, his misogyny is rewarded and Gabby awakens for them to live happily ever after with their children, who share a total of three lines, and dogs, who have unexplained and somewhat magical powers.

Truly, the moral dilemma of this story could be compelling, if not for the fact that Gabby, a trained medical professional, left clear instruction about her wishes in this situation. Travis brushes these off as ‘plans you make for way in the future.’

But of course, his misogyny is rewarded, and Gabby awakens for them to live happily ever after with their children, who share a total of three lines, and dogs, who have unexplained and somewhat magical powers.

Aside from the plot, I am forced to wonder at what point starring in these films stopped being a good career move for young and beautiful actors. While “The Notebook” has become a classic in the romance genre, this movie feels like a bastardization of the beautiful tragedy in that story. With over ten years having passed since Nicholas Sparks’ glory days, it may be time to make way for someone with newer and fresher ideas about love.

The brightside of the trip to the Strand, however, is the discovery that on Tuesday you get a small free popcorn with the purchase of your movie ticket. Worth it.

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