Movie Review - The Choice (2016)

This is the 11th adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel and it might stand for a while as the worst of those adaptations. The year isn't over yet and it might be released overseas, but so far its box office return is the lowest. In the three months since its release, it's made under $20 million. It also has the second-lowest, Rotten Tomatoes score, which barely puts it above a single digit. The title is also very misleading. The bones to a good, if not great film exist here, but screenwriter Bryan Sipe doesn't put any meat on those bones. Director Ross Katz lays everything out so blandly, which is shocking because Katz is the two-time, Oscar-nominated producer of Lost in Translation (2003) and In the Bedroom (2001), two very rich films. This proves that a good producer doesn't always make a good director, or at least it proves that Katz isn't in league with Sofia Coppola or Todd Field.

Benjamin Walker (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and In the Heart of the Sea) stars as Travis Parker, a veterinarian in Wilmington, North Carolina who lives in a beautiful home by the water. He's a bit of a ladies man with a boat that he takes out with his friends, down the river or down the coast to have fun on the beach or enjoy barbecues. He's charming, if a bit cocky and a tad obnoxious. He likes to play his music loud, much to his neighbor's chagrin.

Teresa Palmer (I Am Number Four and Warm Bodies) co-stars as Gabby Holland, a medical student who also works at the nearby hospital. She's one of Travis' neighbors, and yes, his music is played, much to her chagrin, especially when she's trying to study. She's a dog-lover and she's currently dating a tall, gorgeous doctor named Ryan McCarthy, played by Tom Welling (Smallville).

The reason the title is misleading is because one thinks the so-called choice will be Gabby's choice between Ryan and Travis, but that's not the so-called choice of this movie. I wish it were, not simply because it would have been interesting but also because it would have explained Gabby's mental process and what it is she's thinking.

We're supposed to believe that she falls out of love with Ryan and falls in love with Travis, but there's no clear explanation as to why. What is it about Travis that's more appealing than Ryan? Palmer has a Kristen Stewart vibe a la Twilight, but the love triangle there was vastly more understandable than the one here, but it's not even a triangle. Gabby never seems invested, so it's difficult to care. She goes to Travis only because the script said so. It's unclear why Ryan was even needed as a character in this narrative.

So, if it's not about the love triangle, what is the so-called choice of this movie? The answer might be a spoiler, so spoiler alert! Spoiler upcoming!

The so-called choice of this movie is for Travis, not Gabby. In the last act of this movie, Gabby gets into a car accident and she's put into a coma. After a while, Ryan tells Travis that he has to decide whether to take Gabby off life-support, which would effectively kill her or disobey her DNR order and keep her on machines indefinitely, if not forever.

What this movie does is something similar to Million Dollar Baby (2004), but what that Clint Eastwood film did that this one doesn't is it focused on the relationship between the two and focuses on the two sides of the so-called choice. This movie doesn't have that kind of focus. First, it wastes time with a non-essential and non-important, love triangle with the character of Ryan who ends up being of no consequence.

Secondly, when Travis and Gabby finally get together, Katz does a montage, which is supposed to convey years and years of their lives together. This montage is not enough and falls short of preparing us for the so-called choice because I have no idea again of Travis' mental process or what it is he's thinking. Maybe Sipe's script has it, maybe not, but what was needed was more conversations to this point, or to this theme. There is a moment involving Travis avoiding going into a church with Gabby but not much more is done with that.

Again, spoiler alert!

Travis chooses to keep Gabby on life support and hope she wakes. Travis' choice seems to be one made somewhat out of faith, not out of science or facts, but the movie does little to nothing to show us any kind of evolution of his faith. This is not the case with Clint Eastwood's film. Without anything to address this, his choice ends up being a hollow one.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and some thematic issues.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 51 mins.


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