A lot going on in ‘Best of Me,’ but little to believe

  • By Robert Horton Herald Movie Critic
  • Tuesday, October 14, 2014 4:07pm
  • LifeGo-See-Do

Even by the standards of “Notebook” author Nicholas Sparks, his 2011 novel “The Best of Me” employs an extremely simple set-up. Twenty-one years after they last saw each other, high-school sweethearts Amanda and Dawson meet again, and an old glow is rekindled.

Perhaps because of the simplicity and universality of this situation, Sparks has added a cornucopia of insane plot developments: accidental death, organ transplant, surprise instructions in a will, and a family of drug-baking hillbillies who make the “Deliverance” crew look unassuming.

Along with the deep-fried melodrama, there’s a dicey storytelling thing going. Amanda and Dawson spend part of the story as adults, the other part as teenagers, so the movie adaptation will flip back and forth between two sets of actors — a tough structural challenge even when the actors look like each other, which in this movie, they don’t.

Michelle Monaghan and Liana Liberato split time as the high-bred Amanda, and James Marsden and Luke Bracey play dirt-poor Dawson. After surviving an oil-rig accident that convinces him he’s been spared for a reason — and this being a Nicholas Sparks story, you better believe there’s a reason — Dawson is called back to his Southern hometown for a bequest from a recently-deceased mentor (Gerald McRaney).

This is how he gets in the proximity of Amanda again, who’s now married and a mom. But Sparks is no amateur at this; Amanda’s husband is an alcoholic and a golf nut, so the alert viewer will sense a possible loophole for a little shared intimacy between Amanda and Dawson when they head out to a weekend cabin to spread their dead friend’s ashes.

“The Best of Me” is directed by Michael Hoffman (“The Last Station”), a filmmaker usually inclined to braininess and sophisticated comedy. He might be the reason the movie has some legit exchanges between Monaghan and Marsden, who do seem like grown-ups at certain moments.

Monaghan (lately seen in “True Detective”) has a strong instinct for truthfulness, which probably explains why Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with her. But all this effort is in service to a truly ludicrous scenario that gets more face-slappingly incredible as it goes on. Nicholas Sparks is 48 years old, and has published 18 books since 1996. This isn’t going to end any time soon.

“The Best of Me” (2 stars)

Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden bring a little professionalism to this deep-fried melodrama. It’s from a novel by Nicholas Sparks, and follows two high-school sweethearts as they reunite after 21 years apart — and a lot of other crazy things happen, few of them convincing.

Rating: PG-13, for language, violence

Talk to us

More in Life

Josh Haazard Stands inside his workspace, the HaazLab, where he creates a variety of cosplay props and other creative gadgets, on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022, at his home in Monroe, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
This contraption crafter turns junk into sci-fi weaponry

Joshamee “The Chief” Haazard is a costume prop maker in Monroe. He transforms trash into treasure.

Shawn McQuiller of Kool & The Gang performs at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, on Sunday, May 8, 2022, in New Orleans. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

Kool & The Gang and Average White Band are coming soon to a casino near you. Queensryche also is due in Arlington.

For your kids’ sake, stress less about their grades this school year

Don’t make a big deal over grades. Instead, encourage out-of-classroom activities and remember, learning is supposed to be fun.

At the prehistoric fortress of Dun Aengus, the dramatic west cliffs of Ireland meet the turbulent sea as Europe comes to an abrupt end. (Rick Steves' Europe)
Enjoy the simple life on Ireland’s starkly beautiful Aran Islands

Three limestone islands make up the Aran Islands: Inishmore, Inishmaan, and Inisheer.

American Queen changes COVID protocols; can I get a refund?

fter American Queen changes its COVID protocols, Patricia Voorhees Furlong and her husband want to skip their river cruise. Is that allowed? Or, will they lose out on $7,858?

Preston Brust, left, and Chris Lucas of LOCASH perform during CMA Fest 2022 on Thursday, June 8, 2022, at the Chevy Riverfront Stage in Nashville, Tenn. (Photo by Amy Harris/Invision/AP)
Music, theater and more: What’s happening in Snohomish County

The country music duo Locash drops by the Angel of the Winds Casino on Saturday. And there’s the Summer Meltdown festival at its new home near Snohomish all weekend.

‘Poco Orange’ Red Hot Poker. (Terra Nova Nurseries)
Warmer weather means brighter, hotter colors in the garden

Here are seven plants that will bring a blazing pop of color to your outdoor spaces.

Bruce Johnson has an exhibit on the history of clowns at the Lynnwood Library in Lynnwood, Washington on August 11, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Clown historian takes the funny business very seriously

Bruce Johnson, a.k.a “Charlie the Juggling Clown,” wants to pass his craft down to future generations.

Ella Larson, left, and Simon Fuentes sort through blueberries at Hazel Blue Acres on Friday, Aug. 12, 2022 in Arlington, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Fruits, flowers and bees aplenty in Arlington farm fete

First-ever event highlights local growers’ bounty and contributions to local community

Most Read