Life is filled with decisions — which according to The Choice is the secret of life. The latest in the Nicholas Sparks canon, the story focuses on what happens when we say yes or no to love.
As a reader and moviegoer, I must be frank. I have not seen any of Sparks’ book-to-film adaptations, nor have I read any of his books. The romance genre is not my cup of tea. That said, The Choice was not as sappy as I feared. And a conversation with Sparks himself illuminated the romance genre for me.
Of course, The Choice has its fair share of saccharine love-sap that hangs like treacle from the North Carolina woods, but the story itself mostly holds up.
Directed by Ross Katz (Lost in Translation) and produced by Sparks’ new production company (creatively named Nicholas Sparks Productions), The Choice delves into the swift romance then seven-year marriage of Travis Shaw (Benjamin Walker) and Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer).
Travis is painted as a ladies man and chronic bachelor, but he is quite harmless and probably a little too believable. Even his imperfections add to his perfection as the “Ideal Man.”
Walker proves that he can be a romantic lead, complete with washboard abs and irresistible Southern charm. He gives a strong performance that had this skeptic softening.
Palmer’s Gabby is a determined young woman with aspirations of becoming a doctor. She is also effete, tightly wound and literally owns a silver spoon. She is also Travis’ neighbor.
Angry sparks fly when Gabby confronts Travis about playing his music too loud. The clashes are almost Jane Austen in flavor and vaguely remind one of Lizzie Bennet and Mr. Darcy, except this time it is the woman who is well-to-do and prejudiced and the man is stubborn and prideful.
Love cannot be denied and the two eventually marry, produce offspring and go on their merry way until Gabby has a fateful accident.
Avid Sparks readers will note some changes from the book to the film, but Sparks said that he is not jealous minded with his works.
“A novel is a story told in words, and a film is a story told in pictures,” he said. “I’ve never taken minor changes to heart. As long as they capture the spirit and the intent of the story and the spirit and intent of characters, and they make a good film, I’m more than happy.”
The collaborative nature of filmmaking is something Sparks enjoys. He is always interested in seeing other people’s interpretations of his works.
“If I was the only one doing such a thing (making films), I would be willing to bet that my 11 films would all feel a lot more similar than they do,” he said dryly. “But I’m blessed with having different interpretations within the same context of the story and then different directors.”
Sparks has always had some level of involvement in his films. From the very beginning with Message in a Bottle up to this film, he has had some creative input.
“I’ve written screenplays that have been adapted. I have simply produced, on this particular one I’m producing and it was run through my production company,” he said. “I learned a bit more about esoteric business ends of filmmaking: budgets and foreign sales and foreign markets and location and how to hire quality grips and stuff like that. So that was a lot of fun to learn.”
The Choice, while lambasted by some, is not a terrible film. In fact, it is not a terrible story. While not up to The Notebook standards, (so I was told by Sparks fans) it is a charming and heartwarming film that is perfect for Valentine’s Day, which unsurprisingly, is just around the corner.