This review completely spoils Safe Haven.
Like, as soon as the first paragraph. You've been warned.
“safe haven” novel and film review
A Nicholas Sparks movie needs three things: a beach, a babe, and a bro. His latest panty-dropper starts bloody, as though Sparks accidentally stapled a spec script for SVU to his newest scribbles when he sent them off to his agent.
On her tail is Officer Tierney David Lyonsand to make sure we stay sympathetic to our killer heroine and not, you know, the law, Safe Haven makes him a cross between Bad Lieutenant and the T Tierney swills vodka from a water bottle, sleeps overnight at the crime scene, breaks into old ladies' houses, nearly runs over a teenager and reeks booze sweat like the second coming of Charles Bukowski.
And those are the least of his crimes.
‘safe haven’: so, about that ending… (and other wtf moments)
Eventually, we're given a reason for his insanity. Alas, it's too late - we've already wasted two acts thinking the filmmakers must be a pack of mouth-breathing morons. Our romance starts when Erin impulsively gets off the bus in a coastal North Carolina hamlet, renames herself Katie and buys a coffee from widowed dad Alex Josh Duhamelwho runs the corner store. She charms his moppet daughter Mimi Kirklandhe gives her a used bicycle, and then they go to the beach and check out each other's abs.
Nuttier and cornier than the snack-food aisle
Their love story has a mellow eas - as neither of them has much of a personality, we're just watching two swell people decide to bone. It almost feels voyeuristic as Duhamel has the snub-nosed Archie Comics good looks of Hough's real-life boyfriend Ryan Seacrest. Squint and imagine him showered, and it's almost like you're spying on her real life. Though she's meant to be a battered wife, after their first few meetings, Katie is as trusting as a puppy.
For someone who's prone to nightmares, she makes the ill-considered choice to rent a secluded cabin in the woods. Her reluctance to open up to her only neighbor Jo Cobie Smulders of The Avengers doesn't seem like the result of years of abuse, but just the result of hiding from the cop - and of the fact that Jo, a sad sack like herself, is a kind of a lonely creepster who wasn't lucky enough to fall in insta-love with a local hunk.
Safe Haven shamelessly riffs off of Sparks' biggest hit, The Notebook. There's a romantic canoe ride, a sudden rainstorm, a quirky first slow dance and lots of shots of the dude hoisting the girl in the air. But it lacks The Notebook 's angry heat. In that, Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams were violently, viciously in love - watch it again or for the first time if you're going to pretend you haven't seen it and count the of times McAdams slaps him in the face.
Here, when Duhamel discovers that Hough is wanted for murder, he's merely peevish, as if his barista gave him the wrong latte. Their fumbled big moments are a waste of two slightly-better-than-average screen stars, which is a different thing than calling them serious actors.
Duhamel's spent his career as fifth banana in big franchises and deserves more than to spend his life as Mr. As for Hough, a former hoofer on Dancing With the Starsshe'd be the biggest name in Hollywood if she could get time-traveled back toan era when we expected our stars to have skills. Straight-forward and approachable, she makes for a sturdier heroine than the rest of Sparks' doomed beauties. Hough even looks like she could drink a beer, which in this country is a prerequisite for running for president. That's weirdly rare in romance movies. Most Hollywood love stories make the heroine teeter around in spike heels and pencil skirts doing a very glamorous job that no one can explain.
Not only is the love itself totally unattainable, so is the real estate.
There are no six-figure lofts in Safe Havenand there's a lesson in there for filmmakers: audiences don't love a Nicholas Sparks movie because they're stupid. They love it because it's real, or at least real enough that they can see a reflection of themselves in it if they just had the courage to buy that bus ticket or smile at that stranger. And then in the last five minutes, all of that realistic romance gets suffocated Fatty Arbuckle-style.
In the looniest twist in Sparks' oeuvre - which is saying a lot for a guy who specializes in secret letters and convenient cancer - after Katie and Alex's last big kiss, she re a note his dead wife wrote before she croaked and realizes that her clingy friend Jo is more than just the miserablist foil for what happens if you move to the South and don't dye your hair blonde.
Jo is—gasp! And she, like, totally supports them falling in love.
'safe haven' ending: let's talk about that crazy denouement
In flashbacks, Katie realizes that all those times she walked through the woods with her new weird friend, she was actually alone and rambling to herself. This raises a couple questions: Is Katie insane? Did Ghost Jo know she was going to hook up with her ex from the beginning?
Is she a psychic ghost? Will Nicholas Sparks pull an L. Ron Hubbard and reveal that his novels are actually the precursor texts to a new religion? But even among Sparks' questionable canon, Safe Haven is a minor text.
The truly bizarre Henson Noir is still kinda funny, even as it insults your intelligence. Meet your new favourite ghost hunter.