‘The Longest Ride’ takes wrong turn

Tribune News Service
Based on the bestselling novel by master storyteller Nicholas Sparks, "The Longest Ride" centers on the star-crossed love affair between Luke (Scott Eastwood), a former champion bull rider looking to make a comeback, and Sophia (Britt Robertson), a college student who is about to embark upon her dream job in New York City's art world. (Michael Tackett/Twentieth Century Fox)

Kaley Patterson
A&E Editor
@KaleyKayPatt

Once again, Hollywood has done what it does best by taking a sincere, realistic Nicholas Sparks love story and making it a cheesy, unrealistic romance.

The movie based on Sparks’ novel “The Longest Ride” was released in theaters on April 10. Like many of Sparks’ stories, “The Longest Ride” takes place on the East Coast in Greensboro, North Carolina beginning in 2011 but often transitioning to the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s. It centers around two separate but similar love stories parted by time.

One of the most devastating experiences a book lover can go through is when the book becomes a movie and the portrayal does not comply with the work the film is based off of. The film adaptation of “The Longest Ride” did not do the book justice.

Readers should be warned: minor spoilers of the novel and movie are in this article.

In the book, Luke Collins and Sophia Danko met at a rodeo in 2011 after Luke won the bull riding contest. He silenced Sophia’s aggressive ex-boyfriend, Brian, by holding his face in the dirt while Luke’s boot rest sternly on his neck.

But in the film, Sophia retrieves Luke’s hat after it fell off his head by  jumping on the arena rails to save himself from the charging bull he just rode for eight seconds.

“Hey,” Sophia said, “you dropped this.”

“Keep it,” Luke replied while sauntering off, giving her a side-mouthed grin and a wink.

What the film missed in this inciting incident is Luke’s character. No doubt Scott Eastwood has the sexy cowboy fantasy look down, but his portrayal of Luke didn’t show the passionate, mysterious and humble character Sparks crafted.

The moment the film got this scene wrong is when the adaptation took the wrong ride, especially for those who read the book. Audiences miss what makes Luke a real person.

Ira and Ruth Levinson laid eyes on each other in Ira’s family suit shop during the height of WWII. Both of them are Jewish, and Ruth’s family fled from Vienna, Austria before the war took a turn for the worse.

The Longest Ride

The introduction to this love story is the only one the film got right. Ira’s shy, timid and compassionate character is successfully brought to life by Jack Huston – an obviously well-seasoned actor.

The two love stories collide when Luke and Sophia rescue Ira from his car after it spun off the highway on a rainy night.

Ira is much older when the two find him, and he urges Sophia to retrieve a box from his passenger side seat before the car explodes. The wicker box was filled with letters Ira had written to his beloved, late Ruth throughout their marriage. The letters were a portal Ira used to transport himself back to his longest ride – his life with Ruth.

In the film, Sophia visited Ira in the hospital and his home to read the letters to him since his site didn’t allow him to read for himself.

In the book, Sophia and Luke don’t find Ira until a couple chapters towards the end, but in the film, the two find him within the first fifteen minutes. Of course, the story cannot be told on screen like it is in the book – each chapter from the view of one character. But this is another area where the movie loses the essence of the novel.

The point Spark makes in his book is that love transcends through time and there will always be sacrifices. Ira and Ruth and Luke and Sophia are similar in the fact that both the man and woman come from different worlds. Ruth and Sophia are both artists, while Ira and Luke don’t have a clue about that world.

Ira, in the film and book, loves what his wife adores. In the book, Luke tries to understand Sophias infatuation, but in the film, Luke tells her boss that there’s more “bull shit” in the art world than where he works.

In both the book and the film, Ruth makes the sacrifice of not achieving her dream of a big family due to Ira’s injury from the war. Ira tried to push Ruth away, but she chose to love him over her dreams.

While Sophia on the big screen has a job and leaves it for Luke, Sophia on the pages doesn’t have a job lined up after graduating college, and Luke stops riding for her and his mom because of his life threatening injury. But the film didn’t even get this significant plot correct.

Luke was severely injured during a ride on Big Ugly Critter, renamed Rango for the film. After the accident, doctors urged him not ride again because suffering a similar head injury would kill him. His mother had to mortgage their family ranch to pay for his hospital bills, and Luke self-inflicted pressure to save the ranch, so he decided to make money the only way he knew how. Snippets of this plot showed throughout the film, but it wasn’t centralized, which made Luke’s character less believable.

The movie displayed the relationship between Luke and Sophia all wrong, and it partly has to do with the lack of chemistry between Eastwood and Britt Robertson. The film made Luke and Sophia’s relationship center on sex rather than the compassion and synergy the book developed – a manifestation of unrealistic Hollywood romance.

But luckily, the film portrayed Ira and Ruth in a satisfying way to readers. The film would have been better off only showing the story between Ira and Ruth. Huston and Oona Chaplin pulled Ira and Ruth out of the very text and brought them to life on screen.

“The Longest Ride” film, in parts, was the worst adaptation of a Sparks novel to date, but those who didn’t read the book and are suckers for a cheesy, sensual Hollywood romance will probably enjoy it.

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