The Choice (DVD)
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Review of "The Choice (DVD)"
Well, I guess we've had a good run...Sorry to see Ciao! go.
FILM ONLY REVIEWWhen feisty medical student Gabby moves in next door to perennial ladies' man Travis it leads them into a relationship neither of them had expected. Travis has always shied away from serious relationships in case they cramp his laidback lifestyle, while Gabby is about to settle down with her long-term boyfriend. After a whirlwind courtship, Gabby and Travis marry and have a family. They make every decision together, until circumstances force one of them to make the most important choice of their life alone.
Producer-turned-director Ross Katz’s third movie is a clichéd and undemanding romance that will find favour with those who like their films safe and predictable. I know that most romantic movies are pretty formulaic – that’s what makes them so comforting to watch. But I think adaptations of Nicholas Sparks’ novels may be the only ones that conform to a rigid visual style. The films are generally set in picturesque small, waterside towns filled with quaint clapboard houses and populated by photogenic young white people and cuddly grandparent-types. It’s the kind of place where the pace of life is as slow as the drawling speech and no-one has a bad word to say about anybody. The inhabitants exist in a world seemingly suspended in late summer, where the time is always the golden hour before sunset, when the light gives everything and everyone a warm and comforting glow. When the sun finally sets, the nights are velvet dark and scattered with twinkling stars that shine unimpeded by light pollution. The weather is always remarkably in tune with the feelings of the protagonists. It only ever rains when the script deems it necessary, to underline emotional fallout or to set up a dramatic twist, grey skies only appear when the characters are feeling down and fun times take place in sunshine. Everyone seems to spend their spare time messing about on boats or staring dreamily into the sunset over the water, usually shirtless or in a bikini, so the light can glance off their perfectly honed abs. Quite when they have time to fit in work is anybody’s guess…The storytelling is weak. The whole movie plays out as a series of lazily recycled tropes from other Nicholas Sparks adaptations. The plotting is as predictable as you’d expect for this kind of film and matters aren’t helped by the fact that the biggest twists were featured in the trailer. But if you missed it, front-loading the movie with Travis going to a hospital with a huge bunch of flowers lets you know exactly what ‘choice’ is being set up from the outset. But if you don’t quite get it, there’s also a drawling voiceover about the nature of choice, just to hammer it home. Consequently, there is zero tension. It’s always a matter of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’ the leads are going to get together. Their relationships with other people feel more like emotional set dressing than actual threats to the central relationship. However, for me the romance was undone by a lack of character development and an absence of palpable chemistry between the leads. The cast is populated by blandly attractive people, but the characters are such obvious stereotypes that it’s impossible to care about them, especially as most of them clearly only exist to pad out the world.
I had a real issue with the pacing. The vast majority of the running-time is taken up by Travis and Gabby’s courtship, while their later lives together are rounded up in a single montage. It undermines the length and strength of their bond and makes the ‘choice’ of the title feel like a last-minute attempt to justify the name. It’s more like an afterthought than a genuine dilemma because we have no emotional investment in what they stand to lose. Consequently, the final half-hour of the hundred-and-eleven-minute running-time really drags.Pen-for-hire Bryan Sipe (writer of “Demolition”) churns out an undistinguished variation on a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, which follows the cookie cutter template to the letter. To put it in a nutshell; two photogenic young people meet in a picturesque small town, bicker a bit before falling in love, overcome a few minor obstacles, experience a predictable plot twist and live happily ever after. To expand on the basic plot; this time it’s a folksy small-town vet, who falls for his slightly snooty med student neighbour. The obstacles to their relationship are their perfectly nice but poorly drawn partners (both of whom are cheated on, but it’s okay because the main protagonists are each other’s true love, or something…). The twist is liberally signposted in the trailer, so comes as no surprise, while the outcome is never in any doubt. But although the story it predictable, it is rarely plausible because it relies on far too many clichés to propel the paper-thin plot. I was more interested in the romantic subplot involving Shep’s father and his receptionist because love in later life is less commonly seen on screen. Sadly, the romance is side-lined before it really has a chance to get going. The otherwise relatively benign story is also capped off by a gratuitous and horribly manipulative twist that attempts to trick the audience into thinking they’ve just seen something with emotional depth. But it’s so contrived that I couldn’t help but roll my eyes in disbelief.
The characterisation is marked by a lack of character development. The romantic leads are a standard issue chalk-and-cheese pairing. Travis is the laidback local vet, while Gabby’s the uptight med student next door. He’s the ladies’ man who doesn’t even know he wants to settle down until he meets ‘the one’ and in spite of being a feisty, independent woman, she’s in a stable long-term relationship that doesn’t fulfil her. So when the two meet, they spend a lot of time dancing around each other, before finally taking the plunge. It’s hardly surprising that the two stereotypes end up together, as their other options barely have a personality between them. Gabby’s boyfriend Ryan is a rich doctor, with very little to say for himself, while Travis’ on-off squeeze Monica is flaky but occasionally clingy. Travis’ sister Steph wafts into a few scenes to make comments about his relationship with Gabby and give him a lot of meaningful looks, but that’s the extent of her involvement. Shep is Travis and Steph’s cuddly, well-meaning and infinitely supportive dad, who also has very little to do. The dialogue is rife with clichés, low on originality and doesn’t sound like the way anyone I’ve ever met speaks.I feel a little sorry for Teresa Palmer, who plays Gabby. The Australian is a decent actress, but is either making poor script choices, or has an agent who is only putting her forward for thankless roles. The part of the young med student is such a part. She’s required to do little other than flit between love interests and then fall into a neatly cut gender stereotype. Benjamin Walker is meant to be absolute catnip to the ladies as country vet Travis. However, I failed to see the attraction. His drawling delivery of a southern accent makes him sound like Droopy the Dog and he has zero chemistry with his on-screen love interests. Maggie Grace turns up in yet another personality-free bit-part as Travis’s flaky sister Steph, while Oscar-nominee Tom Wilkinson is wasted in a throwaway role as their rumpled father Shep. Meanwhile Alexandra Daddario barely gets a look-in as Monica (Travis’ on-off girlfriend).
The original music by Marcelo Zarvos is pretty standard fare for a romantic movie. There are plenty of arrangements of warm, twinkling piano and sweeping strings, occasionally bolstered by chiming electric guitar, in a nod to the southern US setting. There are a few arrangements that incorporate melancholy acoustic guitar, deep piano and strings, with the odd flourish of woodwinds. By and large it’s an inoffensive score that doesn’t really stand out. The other soundtrack choices include “Black Betty” by Mick Jaroszyk and Burn This Song, “Modern Drift” by Efterklang, The National’s “Terrible Love”, “Tomorrow” by James, “On My Way Back Home” by Band of Horses and even a little Johann Sebastian Bach. It’s a grab-bag of tracks that lacked any really memorable numbers.I wasn’t a fan of “The Choice”. I thought it was bland and lacking in personality in every respect. The director lazily followed a template that had been set by someone else. The writing was formulaic, right down to the tired attempts at banter. The performances were unremarkable to the point of entirely forgettable. I found the whole enterprise tedious and I wouldn’t recommend it. If you’re a fan of Nicholas Sparks’ work you’ll probably enjoy it, as long as you don’t think about it too much. But if you have a choice, I’d give it a miss.
Product Information : The Choice (DVD)
Manufacturer's product description
DVD Region: DVD
Actor(s): Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Tom Welling, Tom Wilkinson
Video Category: Feature Film
Director(s): Ross Katz
Classification: 12 years and over
Production Year: 2016
Listed on Ciao since: 15/03/2017