In theaters now is The Lucky One, the latest Nicholas Sparks romance novel brought to the big screen. The film stars Zac Efron as Logan, a Marine who returns home and attempts to locate the girl in a photo he found in Iraq. A photo that, through luck, winds up saving Logan's life. This search leads Logan into a series of events that are quite preposterous. So preposterous, in fact, that Matt Singer (from Indiewire) and I decided that an Obsessive Chat was in order. (Spoiler alert, obviously.)
Matt: I was just hauling heavy bags of dog food while my wife watched me. The Lucky One role-play.
Mike: I was getting frisked by a cop I just met.
Mike: He called me "boy" a lot.
Matt: Inexplicably angry Southern cops will do that.
Mike: I think my favorite thing about The Lucky One is how Logan is painted as a "crazy drifter." Logan is played by Zac Efron, a handsome man, with a little five o'clock shadow.
Matt: Who speaks quietly and politely. Works a crummy job with great enthusiasm and efficiency. Crazy. Drifter.
Mike: I mean, as a viewer, are we supposed to see a different human being than what the characters see? Even Beth is repulsed by him at first.
Matt: In fairness to that cop, though, Logan should be crazier than he is. In the first few scenes he has PTSD. He hears a violent video game and he thinks he's back in Iraq.
Mike: And he chokes a kid who made the mistake of trying to wake him up.
Matt: That's crazy drifter behavior! But when he leaves Colorado for New Orleans he must have forgot to pack his craziness. Because by the time he gets to Louisiana, the flashbacks are gone, and they're basically never brought up again.
Mike: Don't forget, he walks from Colorado to Louisiana. Seriously.
Matt: Well, yeah. Him and his dog. You can't bring a dog on a Greyhound bus, Mike. (IRONICALLY)
Mike: I mean, that had to take at least a month, right?
Matt: Oh yeah. But I guess that was just what he needed. Because he grew an awesome beard and he stopped having combat shock.
Mike: The movie really could have ended there, right? "I'm cured!"
Matt: Well, in another movie, the search for a mysterious woman out of millions upon millions of women who a guy sees in a picture he finds in Iraq, that would be the entire story. "How do I find this one woman in an entire country?" Efron solves this problem BEFORE THE END OF THE OPENING CREDITS. Because he is The Lucky One.
Mike: Seriously, I thought that would be a major part of the movie. The search for her. To be fair, we don't know how many women he approached on his walk to Louisiana. Perhaps this journey took a few years.
Matt: Interesting. Do you think he used this as an excuse to sleep with women along the way? "Baby, you're my guardian angel!"
Mike: Maybe he even started a relationship with someone who looked like Beth. Then, when he showed her the picture, she would tell him," No, that's not me." And off he went, with his dog, to the next town.
Matt: So basically the prequel to The Lucky One is the TV show The Incredible Hulk.
Mike: I'm now picturing Efron walking down the road with tattered clothing and that theme song playing.
Matt: Bruce Banner, now THERE was a crazy drifter. Zac Efron, not so much.
Mike: Wasn't it David Banner in the TV series?
Matt: It was. But as a comic book nerd, I only call him Bruce Banner. As is my wont.
Mike: But, no, based on one little photo, Logan finds Beth with absolutely no problem.
Matt: He asks one guy who knows exactly who she is. It's like if you had to pick the needle out of the haystack, and you got it exactly right on the very first pull.
Mike: I will give Logan credit: He did try to tell Beth many times about the picture. But that brings up another point: What real person would ever hear, "There's something I really need to tell you," and respond, "Maybe another time"?
Matt: I like that you think the characters in The Lucky One are supposed to act like "real people." Also, does he try many times? He tries once, and then he kind of brings it up again? Also: is this really that dark of a secret? Because what he says instead of the truth seems a lot creepier than the truth. He admits that he's from Colorado, and basically walked halfway across the country to work in her dog kennel. That is creepy. But if he'd explained that he was a veteran and he found this photograph and it saved his life. That's a pretty smooth pick-up line, if you ask me. That's better than "I like working with dogs, and this is the only kennel within 5,000 miles that's hiring." Also: for a guy who apparently has such a hard time expressing himself, Logan doesn't have a problem dropping cheesy bombs on Beth like "You should be kissed every day, every hour, every minute." If you can say that to a woman with a straight face you can say you found a picture in Iraq.
Mike: His choice was, "The most romantic line of all time, brought together by fate" or "creepy guy who walked halfway across the country."
Matt: As far as unintentionally hilarious erotic scenes involving water, I preferred the one where Taylor Schilling watched Zac Efron unload heavy bags of dog food from his truck and got turned on while washing dishes.
Mike: Until Blythe Danner caught on.
Matt: What is hotter getting than dishpan hands while you watch Zac Efron lug kibble, Mike? Nothing, that's what.
Mike: I think we should talk about Beth's ex-husband, Keith.
Matt: I thought he did an awesome impression of Brian Dennehy in First Blood. "Crazy drifter, get out of my town!" "You answer my questions when I talk to you!" I was just sad that Efron didn't go insane and then go on a kill spree in the impossibly well-lit woods of Louisiana.
Mike: I'll say this about The Lucky One: They never tried to hide the fact that we shouldn't like Keith. Most movies will show some sort of a good trait in a character like Keith -- not this movie.
Matt: I think he even wore a "Don't Like This Guy" t-shirt at one point. He is pure, unadulterated evil. He's mean to his ex-wife, to his child, to his father, to his co-worker, to Zac Efron. He's even mean to Zac Efron's dog!
Mike: He pointed a gun at Zac Efron's dog! And then at Zac Efron. What would have been a more horrific scene: If Keith would have killed Logan or Zeus?
Matt: Mike, no one can kill Logan. He's the lucky one. In a good movie, the only ending for Keith is a murder-suicide pact. Sadly, The Lucky One doesn't have the guts to go there.
Mike: Were you surprised that Laura Branigan's "The Lucky One" was not played at any point in this movie?
Matt: No. But I take it you were.
Mike: I would have guessed 50/50. So, let's talk about that ending: Keith is drunk, he almost shoots Efron and the dog, then he resigns from the police department.
Matt: Well wait. Don't get ahead of yourself. First, it rains. Every single shot in this movie is the most beautiful weather imaginable. Then, all of a sudden, a hurricane appears out of nowhere -- which, in Louisiana, is kind of a dicey thing to throw into a movie. Now, all of a sudden, the impossibly awesome "treehouse and ropes course" that Beth's son has in their backyard is an impossibly scary deathtrap. And that's where Keith comes in again.
Mike: OK, so, Keith, on a drunken rampage, chases his son, Ben, out of the house. Ben is running out of fear and runs toward the tree house, which, during a storm, is not a safe place. Keith tries to save Ben. Is that an honest attempt to reconcile the character?
Matt: It was a confusing one to me.
Mike: I mean, sure, Keith risks his life. But the only reason Ben is in that situation is because of Keith.
Matt: I didn't understand what was happening there. The bridge falls into the water, and Keith swims across to help Ben who's on the other side. Then Logan shows up and he dives in and he swims across, retrieves Ben, and brings him back to the other side. Meanwhile Keith just stays behind. And then the treehouse falls on him. Why didn't he swim back with them? What was he waiting for?
Mike: Oh, you missed his throwaway line.
Matt: I must have missed it. I was crying so hard by this point, it was tough to see and hear.
Mike: When Logan takes Ben, Keith says, "My foot is stuck." Then Logan says, "I'll be right back for you." Which we knew would NEVER happen. So, the tree house falls on Keith. I love how Logan and Beth just both assume, "Yeah, he's dead." I mean, they don't even try.
Matt: Assume, or hope? I kind of felt like it was wishful thinking on their part.
Mike: The last scene of the film, it shows Logan, Beth and Ben out sailing on their boat. I was half expecting Keith to be floating along next to them. "Guys. I'm still alive. I'm in bad shape, but with some medical attention, I could still live."
Matt: Heh. In that scene I was surprised that Ben was not only on the boat but driving it. You would think that if a child was involved in a traumatic near drowning that resulted in the death of his father before his very eyes he'd probably be pretty emotionally scarred by that.
Mike: "Let's get you back out there on that water, Ben."
Matt: Might take him a little while to get back in the water. Nope! No problem. And hey, since you're clearly so bad in water that you helped kill your father, why don't you also pilot the boat? That's like six bad ideas all at once.
Mike: So, I kind of liked it. Let me rephrase: I didn't hate it.
Matt: It wasn't terrible. I just thought it was way too long for a movie whose central tension is "Will she find out this kind of awesome secret about him?" And as forced temporary break-ups in romantic movies goes, this one in The Lucky One was pretty damn forced.
Mike: Well, it was. And, you're right, his secret was this great thing.
Matt: Like I'm pretty sure if I told my wife right now that the reason we met was because her picture saved my life, she'd be all for it. She'd probably be confused because I waited 10 years to tell her, but she'd dig it.
Mike: I will say, when Keith is hypothesizing that Logan killed Beth's brother, I thought his story made more sense than Logan's real story. It sounded like a reasonable explanation.
Matt: Well, yeah, it gets back to the idea that his secret is not something that should be kept secret. Logan's secret is the kind of thing that gets the guy a human-interest story on the Nightly News.
Mike: I mean, if it wanted to be dark, it could have been, "I did kill your brother with friendly fire. But now I love you."
Matt: Right. THAT'S a secret to keep from her. Or, like "My dog is the reincarnation of your dead brother." That you don't say to a woman. And I know that from experience.
Mike: "Now you know why I named my dog Aces."
Matt: No one is going to get that joke. It's a good one, though.
Mike: Did you like the war scenes? The first ten minutes looked like deleted footage from Green Zone.
Matt: They were all shot in a parking lot in Louisiana The scenes in the humvee were hilarious, they never shot out the front window or the side windows. They were all angles that wouldn't reveal they were in a Target parking lot, not Iraq.
Mike: They should have just showed the Target. It would have added a deeper level to the story.
Matt: Mmmm. HE is the target. BOOM. METAPHOR.
Mike: I was expecting a dark twist. I don't know why. I guess Keith's fate was the dark twist, but that just seemed more convenient than anything.
Matt: I was sort of expecting Logan to die to save them all. And then for them all to be standing over his grave. And Keith gives a surprisingly moving speech. And drops a single tear. And says. "Truly, WE were the lucky ones."
Mike: And then "The Lucky One" by Laura Branigan swells into the end credits. The End. There's your movie.
Matt: I can hear you sobbing from here.
Mike: While screaming, "Why couldn't Logan have been a lucky one, too?!"
Matt Singer has contributed to IFC, Sundance Channel and is a critic for Indiewire. You can contact him directly on Twitter.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He has written for Wired Magazine, VanityFair.com and GQ.com. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter