The Best of Me Blu-ray Review
Another year, another Nicholas Sparks story gets translated to the screen. This time the film is THE BEST OF ME, named after a novel of the same name though the story was changed pretty drastically. I’m not a huge Nicholas Sparks fan but I’m also not really a detractor. What he does really works for a core group of people who really enjoy romance and THE BEST OF ME won’t disappoint those folks. But it does raise a few alarms for someone who isn’t a fan that maybe Sparks has lost a step.
THE BEST OF ME is the dual story of the young Amanda and Dawon (Liana Liberato and Luke Bracey, respectively) and their older counterparts 21 years later (played by Michelle Monaghan and James Marsden). Amanda is the daughter of a wealthy southern baron of some kind. Dawson is the trashy kid from the bad family who befriends a curmudgeonly man named Tuck (Gerald McRaney) after he runs away from his bad-influence father and family. Amanda and Dawson have the kind of teenage love affair you would expect from a book, lots of big do-ey eyes and the brash carelessness that arrives as a bluster with the beginning of adolescence.
But Amanda and Dawson aren’t together and maybe they never can be. THE BEST OF ME hints, like previous Sparks films, sometimes true love is only for a moment but you should cherish that moment forever. What Sparks fails to realize is that his characters never actually portray this thing they literally say ¾ of the way into the film (not at all good writing). And because Sparks and then director Michael Hoffman spend so little time really giving us something to care about, we end up caring for no one and having no rooting interest while watching THE BEST OF ME.
Sparks fails to show the work that goes into a loving relationship and the authenticity that comes from truly loving someone, fighting with them, bickering, picking at each other, but ultimately being their best friend and confidant. Sparks instead seems to now believe that love is best portrayed by shallow encounters from even more superficial and one-dimensional characters; something almost unrecognizable if you try to compare with other romance films including Sparks’ own THE NOTEBOOK (and the book before it).
Because so little goes into the relationship and into the characters it is really hard to find a rooting interest while watching THE BEST OF ME. Do you want them to get together now that they’re older? Does it bother you (or anyone?) that Amanda is married with an older child? Is this plot/situation just a contrivance of convenience – would it have been too hard to show her actually considering how she would deal with the fact that she is married with a child? Apparently so because that doesn’t fit into this perfect realm where true love will conquer everything.
THE BEST OF ME is a movie for romantics in a new generation. And it is unwittingly a commentary on the status of the American family unit. THE BEST OF ME does not cherish the love and work that go into a long-term relationship, instead focusing on the immediate butterflies and similar signs of ‘true love’. It’s a bit unnerving, actually, because it shows a romanticized version of love that is incredibly disrespectful to the rest of Amanda’s family. And then, with all of this on the table, Sparks stays true to form by throwing in a twist ending just to try to earn a cry from his viewers. Maybe that’s why people love his movies so much? If you want to feel miserable, check out THE BEST OF ME. If you want to smile and love life, seek elsewhere.
Video: (1080p Widescreen 2.40:1) The video presentation of THE BEST OF ME has a rich color palette that supports and immerses the viewer into both the present and the past.
Audio: (English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1) The audio presentation is a little bit less curated but still it performs quite well in even the quieter, dialogue-heavy scenes.
THE BEST OF ME: “Tears of Joy” Edition with Alternate Ending (01:55:55) This alternative version of the story is essentially just a different ending that MIGHT not make people as mad as the original. It’s not at all worth the time and confusion it takes to load or switch back and forth between versions.
Audio Commentary with director Michael Hoffman (01:57:48) Only available on the theatrical release of THE BEST OF ME, this commentary is decent though it gets a little old listening to Hoffman talk about how much he loves the actors and Sparks.
Deleted Scenes (09:46) Several scenes add a few key moments but would ultimately have driven the story from THE BEST OF ME into the ground. The pacing of the movie is a problem and none of these scenes do anything to heighten the story. Includes the following scenes: Dinner with Evelyn; Amanda Argues with Parents; Amanda Comes Home Late; Dawson Helps Aaron; Amanda and Jared Talk About Future
Along for the Ride (01:53) Included as a special feature on THE BEST OF ME is a trailer/featurette about a new Nicholas Sparks movie called THE LONGEST RIDE: ALONG FOR THE RIDE. Strangely it’s the first thing that loads on the “Extras” menu and… it looks awful.
Nicholas Sparks Interviews Michelle and James (02:47) Sparks dominates this ‘interview’ featuring the stars of THE BEST OF ME that focuses on the characters and how they worked together with their younger counterparts. There are a few cool moments for fans of the film when he allows the interview to actually happen.
Nicholas Sparks Interviews Lana and Luke (02:18) This times speaking to the younger versions of Amanda and Dawson, Sparks asks about the chemistry, energy, and characterization.
I DID Music Video with Lady Antebellum (03:28) This is perhaps fan service for both Sparks’ fans, fans of THE BEST OF ME, and Lady Antebellum fans as well. It’s a bit saccharine for this reviewer’s taste and it is terribly frustrating to find that this music video is actually longer than the actual filmmaking special features.
THE BEST OF ME also features the Theatrical Trailer (01:21) and comes with an UltraViolet DigitalHD Digital Copy of both the theatrical release and the “Tears of Joy” edition.