Valentine’s Marathon: The Choice (2016)

Next up in the Valentine’s Marathon is the annual Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation visit to stay on track and up to date with this. What started off as something that I thought would be torturous actually wasn’t as bad. A ton of you are going to disagree with me. I know already. Every year I post one of these, most people hate these Nicholas Sparks movie adaptations and would just like them to stop. While I can see where everyone is coming from, I actually don’t mind them at all, except for The Last Song…I really don’t like that one. But can you believe, The Choice is the 10th Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation? But from what I’ve read, this is the last movie adaptation.

Let’s check it out!

The Choice (2016)

The Choice

Director: Ross Katz

Cast: Teresa Palmer, Benjamin Walker, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Wilkinson, Tom Welling

Travis and Gabby first meet as neighbors in a small coastal town and wind up in a relationship that is tested by life’s most defining events. – IMDB

Nicholas Sparks movies have a formula. Its also this formula that really drives non-fans away from it, in my opinion. There’s always lovers who meet under less than desirable circumstances who find a way to be together then some disapproving factor drives them apart and then they somehow find the strength to reunite. Some times, they are able to be together and sometimes, other things will keep them apart (ex. sickness, death, bad timing, etc). You get my drift, right? Whenever I review one of these movies, I think its important to push away that formula. Think about the factors they put together from the characters to their chemistry (a big one for romance) and the supporting roles and what it does, maybe even the setting. The formula won’t change, we all know that and if it does, like the first time I saw a character survive the ordeal without some bittersweet twist, I was actually pleasantly surprised. So we’re going to do this for The Choice, okay? It sounds stupid to brush the story aside but that isn’t exactly what I’m doing, just you know glazing over the familiarity and looking more at how it carries itself.

The Choice

The Choice is not my favorite Nicholas Sparks adaptation. In fact, I don’t think A Walk to Remember has ever been beaten in my guilty pleasure romance movies. However, The Choice does also give us two very cute characters. There are some supporting characters that could’ve done with a little more development but still had its purpose. The setting itself is beautiful and the chemistry was done quite well. The story could have been delivered a little better and probably the run time could’ve been shorter as well to make it more compact. The Choice isn’t anything great to the movie adaptations however, there is one thing that I liked a lot about it other than the beautiful setting making me want to seek it all out for myself but our two main characters. There are very familiar mechanics they use, like setting up the story in a way that we’re at a certain point and then recounting the events and then getting to the present and continuing on from there to the conclusion. I can’t say its particularly useful to do it like this but its not a bad way for it to unfold.

The Choice

The Choice’s primary strength is its couple, Gabby and Travis played by Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker respectively. Like I mentioned before, it didn’t really hit it off for me right away but in the interaction that Gabby and Travis has in their bickering, they start to grow a little (for me at least). Teresa Palmer’s character seemed to work out better for me but then there’s always a question of judgement and passion. Nicholas Sparks likes to embrace the somewhat “forbidden” love type of thing. Our characters need to have courage and they need to feel some security. In this case, the point of most of the story is Travis’s character not fighting for something he loves and always taking the easy route even if it means heartbreak and being lonely. Up till that point, the story still kind of worked because the message worked for me. However, the third act diving into a dramatic twist somewhat seems a little forced. It does also talk about guilt and holding on and fighting and believing but in many ways, the way it unfolds seems a little manipulative, I guess. I can forgive most of it but just saying that it would objectively be in that area to evoke some sort of sentiment and its where we are tested on how deeply we feel for this couple (which for me, wasn’t a whole lot) whereas, the idea of what is going on about churning up the thoughts of whether to let someone go is probably the bigger question here that really gets emotional. Probably because I’ve been in a relatable situation that it hit me a little harder than it probably would.

The Choice

The Choice however does have some other familiar faces in the supporting role. We have Maggie Grace as Steph, the sister of Travis who really is his guiding light of logic. She sees more about Gabby and her impact on Travis and how he actually feels, just like a close friend would be normally. We have an ex-girlfriend (or something) played by Alexandra Daddario who really doesn’t ever build up to much but to eventually tell Travis something important that encourages him. Tom Wilkinson plays as Travis’s father who in the second half probably understands more about what he is going through than others would. Most of these supporting roles are there for their one moment that really builds a connection or enlightens our character. These characters are also usually expected in these adaptations.

Overall, The Choice works okay for me. Its not my favorite but it is also far from the worst one out of the ten Nicholas Sparks adaptations. The charming characters of Gabby and Travis may get me to revisit it eventually. There are however many moments where it does fall flat, even if you look past the formulaic plot. The supporting characters are weak and could probably be fleshed out more. The story itself drags much longer than it needs. The chemistry between the characters are a little rushed in the first place so never quite meet the potential even if there are some good moments there. There are issues with this one but I’m pretty forgiving on these adaptations so I can see things that can redeem it. However, its not going to work for people who has never quite enjoyed any of them. If thats the case, you might probably not want to start here.

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Netflix A-Z: The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

Next up on the Valentine’s Marathon and the Netflix A-Z selection, we’re at J! Honestly, I and J had such limited selections especially when focused on one genre, that the choice was easy.  This week, we’re going for The Jane Austen Book Club.  What’s a little Valentine’s Marathon without some form of Jane Austen, right? I didn’t think the movie was almost 10 years ago but the cast looks really good and the idea of our life and romances relating to Jane Austen novels is good one since most of Jane Austen’s novels are not just romance but a social commentary also.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

The Jane Austen Book Club

Director: Robin Swicord

Cast: Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace, Jimmy Smits, Hugh Dancy, Kevin Zegers, Marc Blucas

Six Californians start a club to discuss the works of Jane Austen, only to find their relationships — both old and new — begin to resemble 21st century versions of her novels.-IMDB

 Its hard to dislike any movie that uses Jane Austen and her works as the foundation of their story.  The Jane Austen Book Club is really the same thing.  The film isn’t particularly long but to also have to highlight the six characters relationships and the parallels to Jane Austen’s stories is a challenge in itself.  I think that Jane Austen Book Club might at times feel like its not taking enough time for the characters but it does a decent job for us to understand what each one is thinking.  What really takes it above is that the group itself is a variety of people that reflect kind of the different values that any group would have from liking being alone to recently divorced; younger college age versus older; and finally trying to spark a marriage while resisting temptation. Everyone comes down to the question: What would Jane do?

The Jane Austen Book Club

In their turmoil and dilemmas, Jane Austen’s stories give them light and a group of friends. There are moments that might seem a little overly sentimental or even quite predictable, except the cast itself does a fantastic job of carrying each of their characters and it makes for an entertaining film. What is even better is that everyone knows a different depth of Austen novels and with one being a complete newbie, it never loses its viewers in the context (hopefully because I am recently reading Jane Austen Classics so I may be biased).  As a Austen fan or simply an avid reader, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of being able to relate to people who find themselves through books.  That is exactly what these ladies are.  Sure, its about Austen and their lives relating to the stories but it also teaches them something different in each one and to make choices for themselves.

Jane Austen Book Club

The characters that had the most screen time definitely went to Maria Bello and Hugh Dancy who was the main characters who struggled to be together.  On one hand, it was a story of Maria Bello’s character, Jocelyn being somewhat like a modern day Emma who drags a guy Grigg (played by Hugh Dancy) in hoping to match him up with a recently divorced best friend, Sylvia (played by Amy Brenneman).  Except in reality, she tries to push away those feelings that she has for him.  While that is central to the story, it leads us to see the other stories as well.  We get Sylvia’s story as reading Austen’s actually lets her realize how to be independent as a divorced woman.  On the other hand, her daughter Allegra joins and gives a different younger perspective of the story.  Grigg is definitely the male voice in their analysis.  Another character worth mentioning is Prudie, played by Emily Blunt, and her heavy morals on self-control.  Maybe she falls into the Sense and Sensibility story as she tries to resist the seduction of a student (played by Kevin Zegers) but also wanting to rekindle her own marriage. There is a lot going on and the parallels are even harder to figure out if one story relates to an Austen novel/character or if it  just blurs together eventually. They definitely all have the contrasting personalities to show has a different interpretation of a situation and how to face it. Just look at the cast though, it is amazing and they absolutely deliver great performances.

Jane Austen Book Club

I think that is what is so good about Jane Austen Book Club.  Despite the dramatic moments, there is still a level of feel-good moments.  Everyone embodies a bit of Austen’s characters and without realizing it makes decision similar to those in her novels.  The storyline goes from month to month division where we see the book they are reading right before they jump into the meeting itself with just a little bit of events in between to give some context.  Maybe there are too many characters for its own good but it does keep a decent balance.

Overall, The Jane Austen Book Club is a fine little romantic drama-comedy.  It has a widespan of characters and tries its best to keep the Austen stories and context understandable even to those who don’t know much about it.  They divide the stories well enough to make us understand what (some of) the characters are going through.  The cast really takes the script and makes it their own and that is definitely the highlight.  While the story is a little predictable and maybe gets sentimental at other bits, there is still a feel-good factor.  The reader in me approves this movie very much. 🙂

Have you seen The Jane Austen Book Club? What did you think of it?

We will be taking a little Netflix A-Z break starting next week!
Ultimate 80s Blogathon starts on Feb 15th and that will be the main focus.
However, before that, Valentine’s Marathon ends with the two Nicholas Sparks movies I haven’t reviewed yet.
Lets hope its not too cringe-worthy! 😉