Do you ever wonder if your life is guided by Fate? Are all your decisions ordered by destiny? Or do all the events of your life happen at random, by mere chance? Many throughout history have asked these questions and Nicholas Sparks, author of multiple bestselling novels, attempts to address these same questions in his novel, The Lucky One.
“It’s the first book I’ve ever written that was inspired by a single image: that of a soldier finding a picture half-buried in the sand and pulling it out.” He became obsessed with the idea and turned it into one of his signature romantic dramas.
The story is about U.S. Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault. He returns from his third tour of duty in Iraq, with the one thing he credits with keeping him alive—a photograph he found of a woman he doesn’t even know. Learning her name is Beth and where she lives, he shows up at her door, and ends up taking a job at her family-run dog kennel. Despite her initial mistrust and the complications in her life, a romance develops between them, giving Logan hope that Beth could be much more than his good luck charm.
THE LUCKY ONE was adapted to screen by Will Fetters, who had previously written Remember Me in 2010. He commented that Sparks laid a good foundation for him to work with. “[Sparks] is very hands on,” says Fetters. “He’s like another producer.”
Producer Denise Di Novi loves book adaptions and loves working with Nicholas Sparks.She has brought three other Sparks novels to the screen before this one. “The reasonNick’s books connect every single time is the message that love conquers all, love is ever-sustaining no matter what life brings you. And if that message isn’t the last thing that you’re left with in the movie like in the book, then we’re doing something wrong.”
Sparks, likewise, enjoys working with Ni Novi. He doesn’t have to explain much to her inthe way of what he wants from the movie. He shared the three basic rules he expects in theadaption. “Retain the spirit and intent of the overall story, retain the spirit and intent of thecharacters, and make the best film that you possibly can.”
Beauty and Boot Camp
Scott Hicks directs with an artistic perfection that is one of the movie’s best traits. Shot in New Orleans, he takes excellent advantage of the surroundings. “There’s something very magical there,” comments Di Novi, “a mystical quality to the people, the bayou, the whole Cajun influence…”
Hicks talked about the organic decision of filmmaking. “In pre-production you spend all your time worrying about what might go wrong. When you’re filming, it does go wrong.” He tries to maintain a relationship with the actors throughout the process. There is so much work to be done and often the actors are just called on at the last minute to “show up and be brilliant” as he puts it. “Just because the word director is on your chair doesn’t get you the respect.” And he loves working with children and Riley Thomas Stewart, who plays seven-year-old Ben in the movie, was a bundle of joyous energy on set. Children, Hicks Shared, don’t rely so much on technique. It’s simply “let’s pretend.”
Pretend is something that lead player Zac Efron didn’t do to get into his role of Logan.Probably the greatest thing about the movie is Efron’s intensity and performance. DiNovi says, “One of my favorite things about being a producer is watching actors reinvent themselves, and that’s what Zac did.”
Efron did indeed reinvent himself. Training for several months before production with military consultant James Dever, a twenty-five year retired Marine was only the beginning.Up at 3:30 am during filming and on a strict six-thousand calorie diet, Zac added the pounds and turned it all into the body of a seasoned Marine. If the physical workout wasn't enough, Efron also had to realistically show what a seasoned Marine looks like from the inside.
Visiting Camp Pendleton, Zac talked with the Marines there. “…they were the most amazing conversations I’ve ever had with anybody. I can’t thank them enough.” Zac was in awe of their nobility and maturity. He also was extremely grateful for the training involved. A perfectionist himself, Efron wanted to learn everything. “As detailed as I wanted to get on everything, from how you hold a weapon to recounting stories about what it’s like to be out there.”
Playing Beth had its own challenges for Taylor Schilling. But she excelled at pulling it off.Fetters shares how her audition blew them all away. “The best days of her work on the filmwere just astonishing,” says Hicks. “She would do this thing as if she had just thought thosewords up that second, and that is a compelling power.”
Full of Heart and Hollywood
Blythe Danner sums up the mood of THE LUCKY ONE. “It’s full of heart.” Heart it has, butin the questions of Fate versus Chance, it leaves out any spiritual elements of either. It only stays on the surface of the questions and doesn’t delve too deep. And there is a sense on certainty throughout the movie that the leading couple will, at some point, undress each other, which apparently is necessary in a romantic drama. It was destined to happen.
THE LUCKY ONE is typical Hollywood romance. The movie is rated PG-13 for sexuality and violence. The violence is tame compared to the explosive, although non-graphic, sexuality that expresses the simplistic view of love typical to movies akin to this one.
Sparks may have come up with a decent premise, and it certainly is a very well directed movie, but the content is definitely not family friendly and its themes are soft and unanswered. Of course, the questions he’s asking may be unanswerable to begin with. One thing is certain, whether it was Fate, or whether the movie came together quite by accident, we get to see some very nice directing and wonderful performances by Efron and Schilling,as well as the rest of the supporting cast.