"The Choice" (2016)
Travis (Benjamin Walker) is living the good life. He has a beautiful home in a small town on the coast of North Carolina. Travis is popular, fun-loving and playing the field. He has a great support group of friends (all have married and have kids). He takes his boat out on almost a daily basis with his trusty dog by his side (who, by the way, is afraid of water). Travis works as a veterinarian with his father, Dr. Shep's (Tom Wilkinson) and he has a loving sister, Stephanie (Maggie Grace) who seems to know Travis better than Travis knows himself.
Gabby (Teresa Palmer) is working at a local hospital and is studying to take her medical boards. She works alongside her boyfriend, Dr. Ryan McCarthy (Tom Welling) and his father (Brett Rice) who runs the hospital. She is comfortable and happy with her life, looking forward to when she becomes a doctor. She moves into a new home near the water with her dog. What she wants from her new home is a quiet place to study and sleep.
Gabby's plans to study are complicated by her neighbor Travis. Travis doesn't take a lot of things seriously, and he loves to have people over to his place for bar-b-que and beer. The afternoon that Gabby moves in Travis has a couple of friends and their families over for a cookout and play games. Gabby gets more and more frustrated as the party seems to get louder with each passing moment, disturbing her plans to study. As the party winds down, and Travis's friends leave, he sits in a lone chair in his front yard that looks out over the water listening to rock blasting from a boom box when Gabby angrily appears. As Travis continues to kid her, Gabby chews him out for his lack of good manners and accuses Travis's dog of knocking up Gabby's dog. Travis is intrigued by this fiery woman who won't even give him her name. As Gabby storms off to her home, Travis turns the music up and enjoys the evening. Little do each other know that this first encounter is one that will change each of their lives for the better.
Nicholas Sparks produced this film based on his best-selling book of the same name, hand-picking the cast, the screenwriter, and the director. "The Choice" is a film that has all the usual Sparks touches that we have come to expect from his work. We have the two lead characters that while they initially clash, are destined to somehow, some way, end up together. The supportive family and friends are there, some of whom recognize, even before Gabby and Travis do, that there are some sparks there between them, and of course, there is a significant crisis that threatens the couple's happiness.
As with most of Sparks work, the film is set in North Carolina, and the scenery is spectacular as cinematographer Alar Kivilo captures every purple, pink and blue hue coming off the water and the sky. Director Ross Katz keeps the film moving at a quick pace and lets quite a bit of humor come into the story-line. The first two-thirds of the movie are fun and lighthearted, as the couple starts falling in love, even as they continue to get on each other's nerves.
What makes this film watchable, for all the Sparks schmaltz that this movie contains, is that Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer work incredibly well with each other. They have exceptional chemistry on screen together, especially in those moments where they are bickering. There is quite a spark between them and it's very apparent on the screen that their characters are attracted to each other right from the start, and that draw continues to build as the film goes along. Walker has an easygoing southern charm that makes you like him from the start. Palmer has to work a little harder as her character isn't as likable, but she wins us over as soon as her character starts warming up to Travis. The film is also helped by an outstanding supporting cast, including the always fascinating and brilliant Tom Wilkinson as the kindly father of Travis, Maggie Grace as Travis's sister who keeps telling Travis that he is about to fall for Gabby and Tom Welling as the supportive boyfriend of Gabby's.
My biggest problem with the film is that it almost slows to a stop when the big crisis starts happening. It goes on way too long, letting us experience the agony of the situation for what seems like forever. However, the chemistry between the two lead makes this a movie that fans of Nicholas Sparks films will enjoy. My Rating: Bargain Matinee
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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