Movie Review: The Lucky One

Zac Efron as Logan in "The Lucky One"

By Kimberly Gadette (doddleNEWS)

Are you dying to know who, exactly, is The Lucky One? Without this reviewer revealing any sort of spoiler? Here it is: If, due to any combination of circumstance, research, will, advice, intuition or sheer ignorance, you manage to avoid seeing this film then you, my friend, are indeed the lucky one. And I, for one, am inordinately jealous.

If we could consider the look of the film alone, then cinematographer Alar Kivilo gives us much to appreciate. Scenes rife with dappled, golden light playing peek-a-boo in and around the graceful Louisiana woods, the lazy bayou waterways gently rolling through the frames … all glorious to behold. But we’re picky. We’re going to want a riveting story as well. Or, at the very least, credible plot points that don’t make us scream at the screen in rising frustration.

Blythe Danner as Ellie

But like the 160-pound Anatolian Shepherd that Ellie (Blythe Danner) and her granddaughter Beth (Taylor Schilling) are trying to train at their family-run dog kennel … I’m getting ahead of myself.

After completing his third tour of duty in Iraq, Marine Sergeant Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) has finally returned home to the States. But he finds he’s unable to settle down with his sister and her family in Colorado; not only is he suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but he feels compelled to express his gratitude to a mysterious woman in a faded photograph … a photograph that inadvertently saved his life.

Thankfully, the woman in the picture is posing in front of a lighthouse that he locates on the internet, and he’s soon heading for Louisiana, his trusty German Shepherd by his side. Oddly enough, he chooses to go by foot, walking all the way from Colorado. Which begs the question: after surviving three tours in the Middle East, frequently in harm’s way, witnessing buddies being blown to bits … hitchhiking in America is too damn dangerous?

Upon meeting the woman in the photo (Schilling’s Beth), Logan is too tongue-tied to explain the reason why he’s arrived at her home. As he helplessly stands there, mutely staring, she concludes that he’s applying for the advertised job of kennel assistant. He goes along with it, and soon ingratiates himself into the household consisting of grandmother Ellie, Beth and her 8-year-old son Ben (Riley Thomas Stewart). But oh no!, the fact that he still has that photo of her in his possession will surely, eventually ruin everything. Unless the snarling ex-husband and deputy sheriff Keith (Jay R. Ferguson) doesn’t run him off first, threatening bodily harm, stalking his cabin and spitting hunks of apple in his face. And Logan thought Iraq was a challenge …

Taylor Schilling as Beth, Zac Efron as Logan

So what makes The Lucky One so luckless? First, the idiotic plot, with the writers (novelist Nicholas Sparks and screenwriter Will Fetters) expecting us to accept that a budding romance would blow up the minute that Beth finds the photo. Right … this logical, lovely woman would shove the nicest fellow she’s ever met out of her life because he found a picture of her on the ground in the middle of a war zone. How dare he?!? By the way, whatever happened to Logan’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after he set foot on Louisiana soil?

Second, Zac Efron. While he’s a perfectly fine singer/dancer (having made a name for himself in the High School Musical franchise), as a serious actor he’s utterly out of his league, attempting to concoct a character by adopting an immobile face and a glassy-eyed stare. As he stomps mechanically through the woods, we wonder if he’s not a wind-up soldier … or a wooden one. It’s a crying shame that director Scott Hicks was unable to come to Efron’s rescue.

Speaking of Hicks, even though he’s received accolades for his previous work (Shine, Snow Falling on Cedars), that earlier excellence goes missing in this film. Other than the fact that many of the scenes are inert, the pacing slow-to-deadly, it bears noting that actor Jay R. Ferguson – perfect as the suave, easygoing Stan in AMC’s Mad Men – delivers an embarrassing rendition of a bullying cop who sneers throughout. We almost expect him to twirl a fake mustache and demand the rent, à la Snidely Whiplash. Given his and Efron’s poor performances, we have to wonder how much of the blame goes to Hicks.

That said, Taylor Schilling does a marvelous job conveying the multi-faceted Beth, the loving mother, frightened ex-wife and grieving sister, a sexually vibrant woman brimming with humor and light. Her scenes with the always excellent Danner are among the film’s best.

And an extra paws’ up to the dogs, those natural actors who could teach some of The Lucky One‘s unlucky ones a trick or two.


Rating on a scale of 5 bathetic Nicholas Sparks slogs: 1.5

Release date: April 20, 2012
Directed by: Scott Hicks
Screenplay by: Will Fetters
Adapted from the novel “The Lucky One” by: Nicholas Sparks
Cast: Zac Efron, Taylor Schilling, Blythe Danner, Jay R. Ferguson, Riley Thomas Stewart, Adam LeFevre
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 101 minutes


About Kimberly Gadette

Film critic Kimberly Gadette, born and raised in movie-centric L.A., believes celluloid may very well be a part of her DNA. Having received her BA and MFA from UCLA's School of Theater, Film & Television, she spent many of her formative years as an actress (film, tv, commercials, stage) before she literally changed perspective, finding a whole new POV from the other side of the camera. You can find her last 500+ reviews on Rotten Tomatoes ( Other than taking the occasional side trip to Cannes or Sundance, you can find her at the movies ... sitting in the dark as usual.