'Safe Haven' makes Sparks fizzle
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 00:02
The first thought that came to mind walking out of the theater was, “Oh my God, I just paid $10 to watch a Lifetime movie.”
Anyone who has seen any of Nicholas Sparks’ previous films knows he rarely strays from the trite, thematic formula of two people falling in love in a picturesque North Carolina town, always kept apart by some extraneous circumstance.
“Safe Haven” predictably follows Sparks’ usual recipe, but also has plot twists thrown in at the end of the film that have never been seen in his work before.
Though not every element in the movie was bad, there was enough bad to keep eyes rolling from start to finish.
The film begins with Katie (Julianne Hough) frantically running through a bus terminal with a detective (David Lyons) desperately chasing after her. Katie barely escapes by jumping on a bus heading to Atlanta.
While on a pit stop, Katie randomly chooses to start a new life in a predictably quaint North Carolina town.
Upon her arrival, she meets Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower with two children who are handling their mother’s death in very different ways.
Somehow, Alex inevitably falls for Katie’s cold, aloof personality and begins to court her.
A bulletin is posted in the new town’s sheriff’s office informing the public that Katie, whose real name is Erin Tierney, is wanted as a suspect in a murder. However, through graphic flashbacks it is revealed that Katie is a victim of domestic abuse, which leaves the audience wondering if she is really a victim or a murderer.
Though Katie is fearful of letting anyone get too close to her, she quickly accepts Alex’s advances after a seven-minute, barely convincing conversation with a girl she meets (Cobie Smulders). The film treats domestic violence far too lightly, and it is unlikely for a woman escaping in fear for her life to move into an isolated cabin in the woods of a town she is not
familiar with, with no escape plan in case a predictable life-threatening situation occurs.
Katie and Alex’s first date is a romantic canoe trip that is interrupted by an unexpected rainstorm — yes, exactly like the scene in “The Notebook.” The audience is reminded of yet another Sparks film while watching the steamy, dimly-lit love scene that follows — exactly like the scene in “Dear John.”
The only thing worth watching in the film was Duhamel. Comparing his performance in “Safe Haven” to that in “Transformers,” romance films seem to be a much better fit for him. With a different plot, director and leading lady, he might have had a chance at a great performance.
“Safe Haven,” “Footloose” and “Rock of Ages” have proven that Hough is not leading lady material. Though she has potential, and is a great supporting actress, her performance has a lot of growing to do.
It wasn’t just the plot twist at the end — that was highly predictable from the middle of the movie onward — that made the movie dislikable.
The film brought memories of every movie found on the Lifetime Network — not only by the predictable “domestically abused woman starts a new life, only to be found by abusive husband” plot, but also the art direction and acting.
I would like to commend Sparks for trying something new, but I would like to quickly remind him that he is not M. Night Shyamalan and that mush and sap is what draws his fans to the theater — not the eye roll inducing twists.