Best of Me, The
PG-13
Entertainment: +2
Acceptability: -4

Michelle Monaghan, James Marsden, Liana Liberato, Luke Bracey, Sebastian Arcelus. Romance. Directed by Michael Hoffman.

FILM SYNOPSIS: Dawson and Amanda are two former high school sweethearts who find themselves reunited after 20 years apart, when they return to their small town for the funeral of the beloved friend. Their bittersweet reunion reignites the love they've never forgotten, but soon they discover the forces that drove them apart twenty years ago...

PREVIEW REVIEW: The Best of Me is a screen adaptation of a Nicholas Sparks novel and once again he’s had Denise De Novi produce the movie version. I’m frustrated by these two people as they have proclaimed themselves to be Christians, yet continually distance themselves from biblical teachings with their films.

Fornication, adultery, sensuality, profanity, and main characters who show no spiritual inclination seem to be all too familiar screen narrative components. I suspect those ingredients, which are present in this film just like any other 21st century dramatic screen romance, have been justified by these two Christians. It is disappointing, however. They have conformed to the world rather than taken the unique opportunity to portray people who include spirituality in their lives. I keep thinking Christians in the industry will show the world that we struggle with the same issues as everyone else, but instead, Sparks and De Novi ignore this opportunity time and again.

I can justify just about anything done in the name of storytelling, if it’s done well and some religious symbolism can be found in the production: Dead Man Walking, Schindler’s List, Tsotsi are three examples of films that include harsh content but ultimately point to a spiritual reality. We can learn much from parables about people who take a path without a thought for spiritual fulfillment – it can be an effective warning. I cannot, however, justify Christian filmmakers allowing for the profane use of God’s name in a film, even if it is done by the film’s villain. Nor am I comfortable with a protagonist using Jesus’ name twice in a film as a release of frustration. Both are done in The Best of Me and it is the only acknowledgement of our Creator and our Savior by either lead.

In Exodus 20 we are instructed by God not to utter His name in a profane manner. And it doesn’t add, “Unless you are the spinner of tales.” This incessant and now accepted use of profanity in pictures is evidence that there are forces that guide man from God.

Why is it that filmmakers are cautious about using inflammatory epithets to describe a person, yet they have no compunction concerning disrespecting our Heavenly Father? Why do Christians who attend movies no longer object to this irreverence? And why do two of the few in Tinseltown who proclaim themselves to be people of faith include this utterance in their films?

“Well, Phil, maybe the actors just did it. Or, maybe the director made the choice.” Ah, that’s not how Hollywood works. When an author gets to Sparks’ status, his suggestions about what his characters say on screen are considered carefully by the filmmakers. And the producer is the boss – he or she has a whole lot of input that does not go ignored. And at the end of the day, a request to refrain from misusing God’s name doesn’t seem to hinder a director’s artistic expression. He can find other words to express these emotions.

Still looking for a review of the film? Okay, here goes.

For years, Nicholas Sparks has written lightweight adaptations of centuries-old love themes. Attempting to balance melodrama with reality in his novels, he incorporates the many sides of the human experience. In nearly all of his stories, there’s love, hate, fear, frustration, and death – almost always a death. Sometimes, two. Well, in this film, they drop like flies.

While all the actors in The Best of Me do a sincere job, their characters are clichéd and, in several cases, one-dimensional. And though the movie has its share of sweet moments (none that actually cause your teeth to ache, but enough for us guys to begin to squirm in our seats), the poignancy is lost by two many tragedies.

My pet peeve: The four-day growth of beard on an actor that remains at the same length throughout the film. Here Mr. Marsden’s looks more like a 5-day growth. The ever-present stubby whiskers reflect the personality of the actor more so than the character he is portraying. In my mind’s eye, I see that actor each morning having his wannabe beard trimmed by the makeup man while the actor goes over his lines. The affectation takes me out of the scene.

James Marsden and Luke Bracey as young Dawson (right, like his evil backwoods abusive father would name him Dawson) well represent beefcake, their acting range is limited. What’s more, they look nothing alike. And why cast Bracey to play a teen when it is obvious that he hasn’t been a teenager in a long time? The ladies fare better. And Gerald McRaney does what he’s always done clear back to when he was a young man – playing a crusty old guy with a heart. His best moment in this production was effective, but wasted on a film overloaded with overwrought moments.

DVD Alternative: Splendor in the Grass. Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty star in this moving melodrama about young love set in 1920s rural America.

Preview Reviewer: Phil Boatwright
Distributor: Relativity Media

Summary
Crude Language: None
Obscene Language: Around ten obscenities, most the s-word.
Profanity: Two misuses of Jesus’ name and one profane use of God’s name.
Violence: There are a few brutal acts, including brutal beatings and two people shot to death.
Sexual Intercourse: There are at least two sexual encounters, one when the lovers are teens, the other, more graphic when they reunite twenty years later; there are a few sensual scenes.
Nudity: Partial nudity in one scene and both guys get to go shirtless for the ladies in the audience.
Homosexual Conduct: None
Sexually Suggestive Action/Dialog: None
Drug Abuse: Some drinking.
Other: None
Running Time: 120 minutes
Intended Audience: Teens and Up

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