REVIEW — “The Choice”
Although The Choice, the latest film based on a novel by Nicholas Sparks, boasts an engaging performance from Benjamin Walker and mostly decent humor in the first two acts, the love triangle is woefully underdeveloped and the last act falls flat. In other words, “let your heart decide” to skip this film!
In spite of the fact that The Choice stars: Teresa Palmer (“Warm Bodies”), Alexandra Daddario (“San Andreas”), Maggie Grace (“Taken”), Tom Welling (“Smallville”), and Tom Wilkinson (“Batman Begins”), Benjamin Walker (“In the Heart of the Sea,” “Flags of our Fathers”) gives the best performance. As Travis, a womanizer that reforms his ways, which is a common character in films from Star Wars to Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Walker provides enough charisma to make it convincing that women want him and men want to be him. Even more surprisingly, Benjamin Walker provides excellent comedic timing that makes several of screenwriter Bryan Sipe’s jokes more humorous than they would be otherwise.
To be fair, there are other means of comedic relief in this film, such as the dynamic initial chemistry between Maggie Grace’s Steph and Travis, who are brother and sister. Given that virtually every Nicholas Sparks film follows the same formula, it is refreshing to experience Steph and Travis’ vivacious banter and antics. Due to this chemistry and Walker’s solid performance, the first two acts are watchable.
The Choice revolves around one of the least effective love triangles in recent memory, which is between Travis, Gabby, and Ryan. In order for a love triangle to be engaging, the audience must care deeply about all three characters, but this is not the case with this film. Gabby’s character is bland in that her past is teased briefly, only to be ignored throughout the rest of the film. Confusingly, Gabby is introduced as a dedicated student, yet this aspect of her character is dropped as she falls deeper in love with Travis. As for Ryan, Tom Welling’s performance is wooden and nothing in the screenplay elevates his character beyond the clichéd strong, boring love interest. Due to the fact that both Gabby and Ryan are bland characters, there is no reason for the audience to emotionally invest in their love triangle. To make matters more frustrating, there is never convincing chemistry between Teresa Palmer and Tom Welling and their characters spend very little screentime together: Thus, it is obvious to the audience who will end up with whom.
Without any suspense or emotional investment in the first two acts, there is nothing to anchor The Choice’s last act, which deals with Gabby being in a coma and Travis having to decide whether she should be resuscitated or not. Even though the threat of Gabby losing her life is the main emotional hook the filmmakers employ, it is largely ineffective due to the lack of development for her character throughout this film. Rather than deal with the serious issues at hand, the filmmakers are content with manipulative fake-outs and sentimental pandering to ensure the target audience cries. Due to the weak screenplay and poor character development, the heart of this film is hollow and disappointing. Also, if audience members do manage to invest in this film, the final act is resolved with an antic-climactic Deus Ex Machina.
Another key weakness in the last act of The Choice is that Benjamin Walker is forced to abandon much of the charm and comedic timing that made the first two acts more bearable. Without Walker delivering any one-liners or dominating the screen with his charisma, this film’s pacing drops off and never recovers. Also, the chemistry between Walker and Grace is dropped as the characters are forced to go through the motions of a formulaic romantic melodrama. The other characters are bland caricatures throughout this film: Their roles in the last act only arise when it is convenient. Travis and Gabby’s friends show up when the kids need to leave for a hurricane. Travis’ dad, portrayed lazily by Tom Wilkinson, helps motivate him to keep going when all seems lost. Bryan Sipes’ decision to use the supporting characters as plot devices keeps this film from reaching its full potential and wastes the audience’s time.
Thanks to Benjamin Walker and some effective humor, The Choice is watchable for its first two acts, but the underdeveloped love triangle and flat last act make this a film worth skipping for all but the most ardent Nicholas Sparks fans.
Disclaimer: Anyone that is not a fan of Nicholas Sparks’ books and the movies based upon them will roll their eyes much of the cheesy dialogue. In fact, there is an entire scene in which the dialogue between Gabby and Travis is so poorly-written and cheesy that it makes Hallmark Cards look like they were written by Shakespeare himself.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars
The Choice is 111 minutes long and rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues.
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