Ross Katz’ The Choice adapts the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name and chronicles the romance between Travis (Benjamin Walker) and Gabby (Teresa Palmer) as they experience the ups and downs of life together.
I’ll preface this by saying that films like this typically aren’t the sort of thing I would go far so people might be wondering why I would watch it in the first place but the answer may amuse you. Former Smallville lead Tom Welling is in this film and I felt compelled to watch this since I haven’t seen him in anything since. It may be a bizarre reason to decide to watch a film but I’m a Smallville fan so there we are.
It has been a long time since I watched a film like this so I was open to the possibility of it surprising me to the point where I might enjoy it but it seems that the admittedly proven formula hasn’t changed in the slightest in the intervening years.
Travis is handsome, charming and coasting through life thinking that he doesn’t need to form permanent attachments until he meets Gabby who completely changes that perception. Their first meeting has them butting heads but it’s the equivalent of young kids punching each other on the arm to mask the fact that they actually like each other so the rest of their courtship pretty much writes itself. He aggressively pursues her and she resists until the point where she no longer can. Once she gives in romance ensues.
In all honesty the execution of the romantic aspects of the story wasn’t bad but I wasn’t really on board with any of it because it came across as so scripted and predictable. The dialogue was cheesy and loaded with subtext to hint at the inevitable. Teresa Palmer and Benjamin Walker have fairly believable chemistry which makes up for some of the nonsense coming out of their mouths. Every line is designed to be witty and charming to make the viewer root for these characters to get together.
The major issue I had with it is while they were dancing around their feelings for each other both parties had another partner conveniently absent at the time. We are forced to watch this “perfect” summer romance unfold before our eyes while both of them are still in other relationships. Travis’ dalliance with Monica (Alexandra Daddario) seems to be a casual thing that they both pick up now and then but Gabby is supposed to be in a committed relationship with Ryan (Tom Welling) that she conveniently forgets about without a second thought.
I don’t for a second think that people should stay in relationships that they aren’t happy with but there should be some respect shown in ending it before pursuing another one. This isn’t what Gabby does though, she strings poor Ryan along for months while she fools around with the guy next door. It’s a really selfish and cowardly thing to do that makes her a really horrible person. The lack of remorse was dazzling and I couldn’t believe that the film expected me to root for this couple considering the circumstances.
Travis and Gabby’s relationship is constantly painted as being this perfect experience as they spend most of their time riding around in Travis’ boat gazing at really scenic views and telling each other how much they love each other. Fair enough that films are supposed to be escapism and stories like this are supposed to create a feel good factor for audiences but the problem is that there was no drama associated with any of it. It’s the cinematic equivalent of looking at promotional photos for a holiday resort. It all looks good but there’s no depth to it and major developments are completely glossed over.
The title is a really confusing one as there’s no real “choice” to be made in the narrative. At first I thought that the choice would be whether Gabby marries Ryan or leaves him for Travis but that pretty much resolves itself off screen. There is another possibility for “The Choice” that may be considered a spoiler. Much of it is in the trailer but I’ll be careful when talking about it.
Gabby is in an accident that leaves her in a coma hooked up to a life support machine. Travis is -in theory- given the choice to leave her hooked up to it or pull the plug and let her pass peacefully. If this had been what the title referred to then it had the opportunity to be really moving and dramatic but it all resolves itself without him having to choose anything. In effect the choice is made for him which completely negates it. The film also has an irritating habit of faking out the audience with manipulative scenes suggesting that Travis has made his choice. This is repeated so often it’s laughably predictable that scenes won’t turn out the way they seem.
Of course any hardship endured is a profound life lesson that teaches the characters how much they mean to each other and has them consider their superficial regrets. It’s so false and overly sentimental as well as being full of empty platitudes about how each moment has to be treasured. It’s nothing we haven’t all seen a million times.
A predictable by the numbers romance story that coasts by on solid chemistry from the lead actors. It’s impossible to root for the relationship considering the circumstances of it starting. Any attempt at drama comes across as superficial and no “choice” really exists within the narrative. In general it comes across as emotionally manipulative and tries to teach profound life lessons that just come across as empty. The film is nothing that hasn’t been seen done better a million times. It’s also possible that I’m just dead inside but that’s for the reader to decide.
- solid chemistry from the lead actors
- the circumstances of the romance starting
- a lack of drama
- no “choice” being made anywhere in the narrative