'Haven' more 'Safe' than spectacular
When I walked into newly released romance film Safe Haven I didn’t have high expectations by any standard, so I wasn’t surprised when the film turned out to be exactly like every other Nicholas Sparks inspired movie — ridden with clichés and marked by low-quality plot development. But this film did have more of a thrilling story line than the typical work of Sparks.
Erin (Julianne Hough), the films protagonist, flees her abusive husband in Boston and ends up in a middle-of-nowhere town on a beach in North Carolina. While there, she attempts to reinvent herself and even changes her name to “Katie”, all the while worrying that her alcoholic husband might find her.
Of course — like in any Sparks’ plot — there is an element of romance, and that’s where Josh Duhamel comes in, playing the charming Alex, a widowed father of two. Alex and “Katie” inevitably fall in love, but the relationship hits a rough patch when he finds out about her dark past. The movie becomes even more suspenseful when Erin’s husband arrives in town and wreaks havoc.
The movie was at least entertaining to watch — at least up until the last few minutes. The plot-twist climax was so bafflingly ridiculous that the worth of the entire film went up in flames. Throughout the story I noticed a few loose ends and hoped they would be resolved, but the movie’s resolution just worsened the situation.
Sparks’ books are prime material for film makers because they will, undoubtably, draw out a large audience, especially when released around Valentine’s Day. Unfortunately, after too many adaptations of the same author, the style becomes formulaic and overused.
I can never tell if I like The Notebook better than recent Sparks inspired films because I saw it first, or because the acting and plot was actually better. My guess is the latter. Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling were talented breakout stars at that point, but Hough and Duhamel don’t compare. Hough is better known for her dancing and even singing career, and her performance lacked the emotion needed to play the character of Erin. Duhamel looked the part of a hunky single dad, but his character, Alex, was completely static, with no development. How I Met Your Mother’s Cobie Smulders plays Erin’s neighbor Jo, but it’s hard to take her seriously after seeing her time after time in comedic roles.
Overall, the movie is a flop. It was like one of those novels with a beach chair on the cover that you pick up at the airport and finish on the plane — mildly enjoyable but completely forgettable. The suspense kept me captivated, but at the end I was left with nothing. Unlike memorable romantic films, Safe Haven was soulless. Even the romance felt forced; every relationship was hardly believable. If you’re a fan of formulaic, dry, Hallmark-style romance movies, check it out, but if not then steer clear.