Have you ever been to Louisiana? It’s creepy. There are nine populated areas and a lot of dark waters with things that can eat you. The swamps probably stay dark in the daytime just to make it all creepier. And the thing is, I think they like it creepy. So I have a hard time imagining Louisiana swampland as a romantic setting for a movie. Nonetheless, The Lucky One gives it a try, featuring a lost photograph, adorable dogs, a lovely rose garden, a tear-streaming dead-brother story, a darling little boy with curly hair who needs lots of mothering, Zac Efron with an inexhaustible supply of sensitivity and yard tools, Taylor Schilling (pictured) with her attractive but unthreatening thighs, and overemotional behavior that makes no sense. Despite all of this, The Lucky One appears to be a movie directed at women.
The story of a Marine who walks to Louisiana to find the woman in a photograph lost on the battlefield, the film is the latest weepy from romantic author Nicholas Sparks. If there is a director who can do a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, Scott Hicks (Shine) isn’t a bad choice. He does sensitivity well. It’s easy to imagine fans of this sort of thing seduced by its elegance and tenderness. That said, I’ve proven susceptible over the years to these films, and this one is harmless, it’s but also feckless.
Efron is trying to shake the impression that he’s an overhyped teen television idol in over his head as a movie star. I sympathize with his position and want to root for him, but The Lucky One is a mark against him. His turn as an emotionally-wounded marine represents a graduation into adult roles, but it’s the sort of role where quiet romantic charisma is needed, and it doesn’t appear to be there. He isn’t bad—this isn’t Orlando Bloom in Elizabethtown. But there’s no suggestion of wounded depth to his solitude. If you’re going to drive the girls crazy, that’s the quality you really need to be swamped with.