There are a couple of strange plot twists, most involving the ex-husband, that at times threaten to turn the film into a dull thriller, which does not settle well with the rest of the picture's gloopy, glowy sentimentality. I know Sparks likes to add a little bit of excitement to his otherwise linear romances, but scenes involving gunplay and rushing river rapids feel a bit out of hand. Mostly The Lucky One vacillates between pretty and silly, the pretty coming when nobody's talking. Perhaps Efron should give up this corny dialogue business and pursue a career in silent films. He could give Jean Dujardin a call and ask for some pointers. Maybe they could be in a movie together! Boy, that would be nice to look at.
If it's real, gritty, potentially ugly love you want this weekend, instead of storybook romance, then French writer/director Mia Hansen-Løve's new film Goodbye First Love might be your ticket. This deceptively simple story casually spans more than a decade as we watch a young Parisienne named Camille (the avian, arresting Lola Créton) say, well, goodbye to first love.
The film begins when Camille is fifteen and in a hot-n'-heavy romance with an older boy from the suburbs named Sullivan (the seriously pretty Sebastian Urzendowsky). They make love (nobody screws in France, they all make love) and gush over one another like puppies and spend a playing-house weekend at Camille's parents' summer cottage. Things are not entirely rosy though, as Camille, a self-described melancholic, experiences moments of bitter jealousy and abandonment amid all the swooning. But really it's only because she is so utterly, deeply, profoundly in love with this shaggy haired boy. He's very much into her too, but, like many a teenaged lad, he also has itchy feet. He and some buddies have dropped out of school and are planning a ten-month trip to South America while Camille, a young and devoted student, must stay home. (I don't think he'd want her to come anyway.) She begs him to stay with her but he wants to go off adventuring, and so he does, with kisses and professions of love and promises to write letters.
And he does write, for a while. We hear a few of his letters in voiceover as we watch Camille go about her daily life -- school, home, etc. At this point the pace of the film picks up and suddenly it is not ten-months later but two years, then more years. Camille transforms from a petulant teen into a somber young woman, serious about her academics and seemingly content with her not-quite-fully-mended heart. Sullivan's letters stopped coming years before and so she's pressed on with a broken heart, not quite ready to let go but also sick of waiting. The world moves, she moves, and the camera wanders after her.
Camille falls in love with a professor, and he in love with her, and thus begins her adult romantic life, one of shared apartments and careers and a little weary resignation. As this unfolds, Hansen-Løve tends to burst into a scene only to drift out; there's a lilting, lyrical quality to time's passage in the film, and a quietness, a sense of muted melancholy, at work that reminded me of Olivier Assayas' beautiful Summer Hours. There's a Chekhovian/new New Wave vibration running through these films that's both comforting and sad, like the sound of rain on a window.