Talking Movies

February 28, 2013

Safe Haven

Lasse Hallstrom directs his second Nicholas Sparks adaptation after Dear John, but this film about a fugitive  combines some thriller action with its soppy romance.

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The movie opens dramatically with blood-soaked Katie (Julianne Hough) running  from a stabbed body to a neighbour for help. Some quick dyeing of hair and  changing of clothes and she’s on a bus out of town, despite the frantic attempts  of cop Tierney (David Lyons) to find her at the terminal. At a brief stop in  small town coastal North Carolina Katie decides to ditch the bus and take a job  as a waitress at a seaside restaurant. The presence of hunky widower Alex (Josh  Duhamel) in the general store being a major factor in her thinking, not that  she’ll admit that without some prodding from helpful neighbour Jo (Cobie  Smulders). But even as Katie bonds with Alex’s children Lexie (Mimi Kirkland)  and Josh (Noah Lomax), and embarks on a relationship with Alex, dogged detective  Tierney is on her trail…

Another year, another awful Lasse  Hallstrom movie to review; although in this case I suspect he may have had  considerable help from Nicholas Sparks. I excoriated Hallstrom’s disastrous  adaptation of Salmon Fishing in the  Yemen but this underwhelming flick offends less because nobody’s ever  accused Sparks of writing wonderfully. Hallstrom traffics in sentimentality;  and, this somehow being my first Sparks adaptation, that seems to fit well with  what I assume here is Sparks’ approach to romance – which is distinctly Mills & Boon in its major set-pieces. Except that this plot, as Hallstrom has  boasted, incorporates a strong thriller element into the usual sappiness. I’m  not sure that’s something to boast about as this feels like uncannily like Tess  Gerritsen’s novel Girl Missing, her  final entry in that horrible sub-genre of suspense romance, where each intrudes  on the other’s turf irritatingly.

Hallstrom pulls out all the stops visually for the climactic 4th  of July showdown, with fireworks in foreground and background, and some  efficient suspense. Footloose star Hough  on auto-cute makes less of an impression though than Smulders, despite having  acres more screentime as the heroine. Duhamel is a reliably endearing presence,  but he can’t carry a romance solo, while Lyons’ performance as the pursuing cop  decays throughout the film from subtle obsessiveness to pantomime villainy. Red  West as Uncle Roger essays some nice comic gruffness, but one-note  characterisation is far too prevalent, and is incredibly grating in the case of  Kirkland (adorable kid) and Lomax (sullen kid). Indeed the shallowness of the  writing is such that it allows an infuriatingly connived third-act reveal,  infuriating because it relies on one particular shallow characterisation without  realising that hiding it behind shallow characterisation all around hurts the  film.

Safe Haven is a competently made  film, that has some amusing moments and a memorable ending, but it’s impossible  to say that it’s good.

2/5

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