Saturday, 21 April 2012

The Lucky One: Book vs Film

The Lucky One by Nicholas Sparks is the story of Logan Thibault, a marine who has lived through three tours in Afghanistan thanks - he believes - to a photo he found during his first tour. The photo is of a woman he doesn't know and clearly belongs to another marine but after having no success finding the photo's owner he keeps it. His best friend Victor convinces him that the photo is his lucky charm and when he returns home he sets out to find the woman in the photo and thank her.

When he tracks down Beth however, he doesn't know how to explain what's happened and keeps the photo secret, instead taking a job working at Beth's family-run kennel. The longer he stays there, the more time he spends with Beth, her young son Ben and grandma 'Nana'. Though their first meeting is a frosty one, Beth and Logan are both surprised by how quickly they start to care for each other.

Beth and Logan are damaged individuals. Sparks knows how to write flawed people who are surprised when good things come their way, having become accustomed to the bad. It makes the passion of the impending romance all the more powerful and the drama that much more heartbreaking. For Logan, he has fallen out of touch with reality, traumatised by his experiences at war. He has become quiet and introverted, unable to really speak to people and relate to them in any real way. He walks everywhere with only his dog for company. Beth, having married young and divorced soon after is raising her son as a single-mother. Her relationships since her ex-husband have been short lived and she has given up on finding love.

The book is typically Sparks - passionate, all-encompassing and with a beautifully honest and heartbreaking romance at its core. The brilliance of Sparks's books is that, detailed as they are, they are often beautifully simplistic in the fundamentals. The characters have been thought out and the stage set well but the story itself is not altogether complex. Being an easy read does not equate to dumbing down and Sparks recognises this, keeping it to the point and just enough to whet the reader's appetite and keep the reader along for the ride all the way to the end. His stories remain compelling from start to finish and are never patronising. 

The brevity of his books go a long way to explaining why they are so suitable to being adapted, as is evident in the latest in an ever-increasing line of Nicholas Sparks book to film adaptations. Luckily, their brevity also means that we are unlikely to ever get a part one and part two adaptation!

The Lucky One film sees High School Musical star Zac Efron transformed in the role of Logan with relative newcomer Taylor Schilling as Beth and support from Blythe Danner as Nana. The casting first of all was spot-on. Efron has clearly done his research for the film, meeting marines and learning how war has affected them. There is also a notable physical difference to show him as the marine. High School has certainly graduated. Schilling has risen well to the role of leading lady, showing the strong and vulnerable sides to Beth perfectly. 

For me, the book was an ensemble effort. Though the story clearly revolves around Beth and Logan and their impending romance, the book spent a lot of time looking at Clayton - Beth's ex-husband - and allowed Ben and Nana to play important roles. In the film, the romance is the key with the others all taking a side seat to their two leads. Jay R. Ferguson, who plays Clayton, is suitably menacing but never really gets to show off just how nasty he really is, with a lot of his back story and the brilliant opening chapter of the book left out entirely. Logan's best friend Victor also gets a much tinier part and the effect his friendship had on Logan is shown only by Logan carrying his dog-tags with him round his neck. Happily though, Beth's son Ben, who shone for me in the book, is captured brilliantly by newcomer Riley Thomas Stewart. He has all the adorable awkwardness of Ben down perfectly and it's wonderful seeing him come out of his shell with Logan around.

Directed by Scott Hicks, the film has shifted focus slightly, playing up the romance as the only real focus of a beautifully interwoven book plot. The ending, though it kept all the 'important' points, is a little too neat and tidy, leaving absolutely nothing unresolved where the book was brave enough to leave certain elements unknown. However, the stunning setting enhances the beauty of the story and makes it a gorgeous, palatable film with a cast that will keep you hooked throughout in their subtleties and inner turmoil.

A beautiful, dramatic and powerful romance that will easily take even the more cynical reader or viewer along for the ride.

Book - 4
film - 3.5

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