Bull Rides, War Injuries, And The Holocaust: The Plot Of Nicholas Sparks’ ‘The Longest Ride,’ As Written By Critics

In Plot Recreated With Reviews, a feature I’ve been doing for a few years now, we use the summary grafs from reviews to recreate the entire plot of the movie, an idea based on the premise that a bad movie isn’t nearly as entertaining as curmudgeonly, verbose critics describing a bad movie. It all began with a Nicholas Sparks movie, and Nicholas Sparks, God bless that old cheese-dick cornball, no movies are better fodder for Plot Recreated with Reviews than his.

This week brings us The Last Ride, based on a 2013 Sparks novel, a love story starring Clint Eastwood’s wooden son Scott and Britt Robertson (along with Eastwood, it also stars Charlie Chaplin’s granddaughter Oona and John Huston’s grandson Jack). It features everything you’d expect from a Nicholas Sparks movie – gauzy romance, melodramatic tragedy, gratuitous flashbacks to the 40s, a pretty white lady who has to choose between an old-fashioned hunk and her empty internship/scholarship/fellowship in New York City – along with a fresh new Holocaust twist. I haven’t seen it, but something tells me the guy who sets all his novels in North Carolina writes really realistic Jews. As a nod to the title, it’s apparently 128 minutes long. Two-plus hours. So as you read this, never forget the sacrifice these critics made.

 “The Longest Ride” tells the story of a bull rider and an upwardly mobile sorority girl who meet one day at the rodeo. (SF Chronicle)

Scott Eastwood, 29, plays Luke, a hunky, but gentlemanly, bull rider. He lives in a well-appointed former barn. Meadow grass blows in the breeze whenever he saunters by. (USA Today)

Luke continues to ride, against doctor’s orders, because he needs money to save his family ranch. (FilmRacket)

Sophia is a New Jersey girl, an art history major at Wake Forest University who has tagged along with some of her sorority sisters hoping to see “the hottest guys.” (NY Times)

Her sorority sisters squeal and shout, “I want a cowboy!” Moronic bull-riding commentators call Luke “easy on the eyes and a magician on a bull!” (Red Eye)

He rides a bull, falls off and loses his hat. She picks it up as he dusts himself off. Her blue eyes lock with his blue eyes. “Keep it,” he grins, and she pokes the dirt and sawdust with the toe of her cowgirl boot to show she’s interested. (Tribune News Services)

When he asks her on a date, she is all but unfamiliar with this quaint custom. What, you mean he wants to pick her up? And have plans? And not just text here “Wanna hang out?” Ladies, he even arrives with flowers, to the collective sighs of the entire sorority house. (BeliefNet)

The first date is eventful: Luke brings her flowers, surprises her with a romantic picnic near a mountain lake, and saves an elderly man from a burning car. (The Dissolve/USA Today)

Amid a mild thunderstorm, and before drifting out of consciousness, the man adamantly urges Sophia to save the box of love letters he has in the front seat. (Slant Magazine)

As Luke lugs [the old man] to safety, Sophia pulls a box of letters from the burning car (he just carries them around, as one does). (Miami Herald)

And the stage is set for one of Sparks’ bifurcated then-and-now narratives, in which the lessons of the past help to guide the action of the present. (Variety)

During each of Sophia’s daily visits to Ira (Alan Alda) [at the hospital], she reads a different letter that he wrote many years before, and on each occasion this introduces a flashback to the early 1940s. (SF Chronicle)

The Alda character is revealed as one Ira Levinson, a Jewish nonagenarian whose coveted letters tell of his 60-year romance with wife Ruth (Oona Chaplin).

It’s not quite clear why he wrote so many letters to a woman he saw every day — letters that sometimes seem to narrate what they did together just a few hours before the time of composition — but it’s sweet that he saved them. (NY Times)

In a nod to Jewish culture and history, we learn Ruth’s desire for family is tied to the loss of hers. Most of her relatives didn’t make it out of Austria before Hitler took control. That reveal comes as she and Ira walk home from a synagogue, moments that look remarkably like typical Southern Sunday go-to meeting scenes except for the “good Shabbats.” (LA Times)

…phlegmatic Borscht Belt accents and references to Shabbos. (Variety)

Some jokes work in either era, like Viennese sophisticate Ruth fondly calling her small-town beau “a country pumpkin.” When Ira explains that Americans say “bumpkin,” she says either term works fine. (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

There’s even a consultant in Jewish culture listed in the credits. (BeliefNet)

She wants kids but he returns from war impotent, leading him to drown his sorrows at the local soda jerk. (Metro)

Unable to have children, Ira and Ruth collect art, traveling to nearby Black Mountain College to buy paintings by real-life artists. (NY Times)

…and their failure to adopt a parentless hillbilly boy who shows intellectual promise, simply serve to demonstrate how few obstacles Luke and Sophia face compared to theirs. (Hollywood Reporter)

As Sophia runs into relationship trouble with Luke, she [continues to] visit Ira in the hospital and reads the letters with him. (AV Club)

He’s into rodeos, barbecue and “old school” manly ways; she’s into Andy Warhol, Jackson Pollock and liberated female thinking. (Toronto Star)

Luke doesn’t believe in women buying him a drink or calling him first. (AV Club)

Sophia loves art, as she explains: “I love art. I love everything about it.” (AV Club)

This guy’s “old-school” and says so. (“Call me old-school,” Luke says.) (Chicago Tribune)

When Sophia invites Luke to meet the art dealer she intends to intern under, and his reaction to the collection she brought from New York to display to prospective buyers is a smirk: “I think there’s more bullsh*t here than in my field.” (Slant Magazine)

Twice here, when characters get their hearts scuffed, thunder claps and it begins to rain. (LA Weekly)

[But] as Sophia hears Ira’s stories, she realizes Luke is the one for her. (FilmRacket)

Tillman has fun contrasting an old-fashioned gentleman like Luke with the frat bros at Sophia’s college, soft man-children in pastel polo shirts who text late at night instead of courting her with dinner dates and flowers. (LA Weekly)

Soon after, she decides pop music gives her headaches and switches the radio to country. (LA Weekly)

Beautiful landscapes loom large. Gauzy curtains sway as the lovebirds get tastefully amorous. (USA Today)

Seacoast and sunlight, white people kissing in-the-rain (NY Times)

sun-dappled shots of lovers sitting together, smiling and staring at an undetermined spot (Metro)

misty vistas of gauzy fog draped delicately over lush North Carolina forests and gleaming lakes (Seattle Times)

kissing under a spray of water (NY Times)

honey-glow sunsets and utter fraudulence (Chicago Tribune)

at least three instances of Ira giving Ruth a gift and her jumping on him in joy. (Metro)

Smiles are dazzling. Complexions are flawless. Hair is perfect. (Seattle Times)

Insulting to immigrants, minorities, soldiers and horses (Red Eye Chicago)

Montages of walks along the ocean, horseback rides through verdant meadows and Eastwood’s ever-present abs (LA Times)

His blue eyes, high cheekbones and chiseled jaw have Clint Eastwood’s genetic imprint. His toned pecs and abs are given nearly as much focus (USA Today)

to say nothing of the incipient crinkles in both his voice and his forehead. (The Wrap)

At the right angle, he looks exactly like Dirty Harry Callahan — but the young Eastwood has more sex appeal than his flinty father did. (Newsday)

those distracting Eastwood abs. (LA Times)

chiseled Luke could easily get a gig as an underwear model (The Wrap)

The two end up in a lovemaking montage that intercuts bull-riding with their mistily shot grapplings. (Boston Globe)

one effective sequence that cuts together Luke’s professional bull-riding, Sophia’s attempt to ride a practice rig, and the couple having sex constantly.  (AV Club)

crosscutting their first sexual tryst with clips of him teaching her to ride an oil barrel suspended by ropes (Slant Magazine)

But, despite their attraction, they know the romance is going nowhere. She’s about to graduate and head up to New York to work in an art gallery. She might as well say she’s going to spend the summer burning American flags. (Guardian)

Much is made of this art-gallery internship throughout the movie: Should Sophia stay with the man she loves …or take a job that pays no money? (SF Chronicle)

The movie tries to wring suspense from Luke’s confrontation with his greatest enemy: the villainous bull that threw him off and gave him his head injury in the first place. (AV Club)

One year earlier, Luke was violently thrown from a practically undefeated bull-nado and spent two weeks in a coma. Disregarding doctor’s orders, his only current priority is to buck his way to the top. (Slant Magazine)

His mom (Lolita Davidovich) begs him to quit. “It’s eight seconds,” his mom says. “That girl could be the rest of your life.” (USA Today)

Everyone sane in Luke’s life is begging him to hang up the spurs. Naturally, he won’t. He’s got to be the best. And that means one final ride against Rango (credited “as himself”), even if the doctors warn he may never walk again. (Guardian)

“This is what I do,” he tells Sophia. “It’s all I know.” (Toronto Star)

Luke, in the lead as 2015’s top cinematic narcissistic asshole, doesn’t, in fact, sever his spine. His idiotic machismo gets him the trophy and, even worse, the girl. This is after she dumps him for refusing to give up his idiotic career. (Guardian)

A third-act twist, in which these nice and nice-looking people are handsomely rewarded for so much niceness, has all the narrative sophistication of a 10-year-old closing her eyes and wishing dreamily before blowing out the candles. (Austin Chronicle)

Finally everything is tied up in a neat moral bow, with Luke realising that the challenge of the rodeo pales next to the “longest ride” of the title, which – I hope I’m not giving too much away – is the ride they call life. (Sydney Morning Herald)

Folks, I hope that was enough closure for you. I combed through so many damned reviews waiting for someone to spoil the twist ending that I feel like I’ve seen this horrible movie six times over.

Also, after putting together at least three or four of these features on Nick Sparks movies, I’ve come to the conclusion that you could actually write a really solid Nick Sparks fan-fiction story in the style of a Nick Sparks novel. It’s about this guy from rural North Carolina whose college girlfriend leaves him to take a scholarship in New York. Instead of just moving to be with her, the guy stubbornly stays home, and spends the next 30 years writing the same goddamned story about a handsome, perfect, old-fashioned good ol’ boy being such a honey-dicked stud that he gradually convinces some liberated woman to turn down her scholarship and spend the rest of her life having his babies and baking peach cobbler. Then one day, he crashes some dumb car he bought with his schmaltz money, and the woman who left him all those years ago reads about it in the newspaper and rushes to his side. She gets to the hospital just in time to tell him that she’s read all his books, and that his 37 nearly identical self-mythologizing novels are the ultimate proof of what an obsessed, delusional sociopath he always was, right before he dies. He doesn’t have time to alter his will and it turns out he’s left everything to her, the only woman he ever loved. She uses a little of it to fix the transmission on her Volvo and have him cremated, and gives the rest to charity. The end.