The latest three-hanky slushfest from the pen of The Notebook author Nicholas Sparks is everything you feared and hoped it would be: as overemotional as a drunk high-school production of Romeo and Juliet, and just as weirdly, unintentionally entertaining. James Marsden plays Louisiana oil rigger Dawson, a noble six-pack roughneck who reads the works of Stephen Hawking and likes to gaze wistfully up at the stars. Several hundred miles away, Michelle Monaghan’s disillusioned wife and mother Amanda is wondering where her life went off the rails. Could there have been something between them, long ago?
Suddenly we’re flashing back to 1992, where a pair of fresh-faced school kids played by twentysomething actors who look absolutely nothing like their present-day counterparts fall crazy in love. But will Dawson’s scenery-chewing redneck family scupper this burgeoning romance? It’s entirely possible that the lead character’s name is a sly in-joke on Sparks’s part, because the flashback scenes here are so unnervingly redolent of turn-of-the-millennium teen TV weepathon Dawson’s Creek that you half expect James Van Der Beek and his Mount Rushmore forehead to come blundering in at any moment. It all comes to a head with the most woefully misjudged, jaw-on-the-floor twist in recent cinema history—which is saying something. Movies this silly, crass and manipulative really shouldn’t be allowed to exist in 2014. But we’re guiltily glad that they do.
Cast and crew