Review: The Choice
The latest love story out of the Nicholas Sparks machine is all about how choices define your life. Unfortunately, in this film, the bestselling author made all the wrong ones. Strategically released a week before Valentine’s Day, The Choice does have all the classic elements Sparks is best known for: beautiful North Carolina scenery, romantic moments in the rain, star-crossed lovers being torn apart. This time, however, it’s clear he’s just going through the motions, leaving the audience asking themselves, who cares?
The Choice is the love story of Travis and Gabby, played by newcomers Benjamin Walker and Teresa Palmer. Travis is a playboy veterinarian who can’t seem to commit to a nice girl. Gabby is a feisty medical student being courted by a handsome doctor (a refreshing appearance by Tom Welling.) When Gabby moves in next door to Travis, their innocent banter begins to grow into something more, and before we know it: engagement, wedding, babies, all in one swift montage.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with happy endings, but for the entirety of the film, something feels off. This is because we are given no time to get on board with their relationship, and actually care that they get said happy ending. A couple of dinner dates, a trip to the beach, some mild flirtation, and suddenly the two are throwing their lives off course for each other. Did I miss something?
Another major failure was, for the first time in a Nicholas Sparks film, the lead characters are simply not likeable. Gabby, the beautiful next-door seductress, is rude and angry at Travis from day one. This was likely intended to indicate their attraction, but just translated to her being a brat. Travis is equally confusing, as we watch him throw half-hearted pick-up lines at Gabby while she yells at him for no reason. Perhaps this is flirting?
It’s difficult to tell if the writing or the acting is to blame, but the key elements required for us to root for their happy ending are missing. If the writers had replaced the countless shots of North Carolina foliage and characters staring out into the sunset with some plot development, we might have understood why this relationship was any more than a summer fling. The two don’t seem to fill any sort of void for the other, or make each other better people. This makes it difficult to approve of Gabby blatantly cheating on her nice doctor boyfriend without a care in the world.
I would like to give Nicholas Sparks the benefit of the doubt and hope that he wanted more for this story and these characters. It’s a shame that the most interesting aspects of the film are left almost entirely untouched. Gabby is briefly depicted as a passionate med student, but that fact is quickly forgotten. She also alludes to her struggling parents and upbringing that Travis “knows nothing about,” but unfortunately, neither does the audience. There is a brief glimmer of hope for a genuine moment when tragedy strikes in the final act, but even a medical ethics plot twist couldn’t be sustained without a reason why it mattered that they ended up together.
The film had one small saving grace: fantastic dogs. The film’s most endearing moments involved Gabby and Travis’ pets, bringing the couple together in their sneaky canine ways. But not even puppies could save this romantic disaster. My advice to you this Valentine’s Day? Skip The Choice, cuddle up with your sweetheart and rent The Notebook instead.