The Longest Ride is a movie based on a book written by Nicholas Sparks and directed by George Tillman, Jr. It is a drama/romance film, which is what Nicholas Sparks is known for. This movie is about a bull rider, Luke Collins, who is trying to make his way back to the top after being seriously injured in a previous bull riding competition. A year after his accident, he meets a girl, Sophia Danko, at his first bull riding competition since his recovery, and they end up going on a date where the sparks start flying. However, their paths are headed in different directions, and their relationship is tested. Luke is trying to make it back to being the best bull rider in the world, while Sophia is leaving for New York in two months for an art internship. As the story progresses, an elderly man shares his story about his relationship with his wife through flashbacks and letters and how it withstood the test of time. His story helps them see the sacrifices needed for a relationship to work. This story uses romance to appeal to its audience by trying to bring about strong emotions from the audience that they can relate to or desire.
In general, I am a sucker for a romantic film, and I usually enjoy Nicholas Sparks’ movies, but I have to say, this one was not my favorite. The acting was less than average, it was quite, for lack of a better word, cheesy, and it just didn’t flow as well as I would have hoped. Throughout the movie, the male gaze was apparent, the “Mammy” and “cool girl” stereotypes were portrayed, and there is also some evidence of post feminism.
Many times throughout the movie, the main character, Sophia Danko, and other female characters were used as objects for a source of pleasure. In one of the first scenes, the camera follows a girl walking into her Sophia’s room in a sorority house full of girls. She is wearing a short skirt, and the camera zooms in right on her butt (could not find a photo of this on the internet). This is a classic example of the gaze. As Mulvey states, “there are circumstances in which looking itself is a source of pleasure, just as, in the reverse formation, there is pleasure in being looked at.” This pleasure in looking is problematic because finding pleasure looking at another person as an object can lead to perversion and lead people to only be sexually satisfied through watching an objectified human being in an active and controlling way (Mulvey, Section II A.). The pleasure in being looked at was also evident in this film. After falling in a pond at his ranch house, Sophia uses his shower when they get back inside. The door to the bathroom doesn’t get shut all the way and Luke sees her getting undressed (objectification is also used here before she notices him looking). He looks away at first, but when he looks back, she she’s him looking at her and purposefully continues to take off her clothes while making eye contact with him. This is clearly showing her wanting his gaze on her. She is getting pleasure from knowing that he is looking at her getting undressed. This could also be an example of post feminism. Sophia is using her sexuality as she desires. It becomes her wanting him to look at her instead of her being used as an object. Her femininity is her bodily property, and she can do what she wants with it. Gill noted that in today’s world, “Women are not straight forwardly objectified but are portrayed as active, desiring sexual subjects who choose to present themselves in a seemingly objectified manner because it suits their liberated interests to do so,” (Gill, p. 151). This scene is a perfect example of that.
There was also evidence of the Mammy stereotype being used in this film. There was little diversity in the characters of this movie. The one person of color that I noticed was the nurse at the hospital. Her only role in this movie was to take care of the elderly man in the hospital that shares his love story with Sophia and Luke. Her character is not developed at all, and she is not at all sexualized, but portrayed as the being very maternal and non-threatening. Another stereotype that was portrayed was the “cool girl” stereotype. On one of their first dates, Luke takes Sophia to a bar. At the bar, Sophia drinks beer, eats greasy food, talks about liking steak, and plays pool. Luke even makes a comment that she is, “nothing like everyone else.” This does not fit her character from most of the film. In the very beginning of the movie, Sophia’s friend can barely get her to go to the rodeo with her because she is too busy with her homework and studying. After meeting Luke, she goes back and forth between being very into school and her new internship that she got, while trying to get Luke to quit bull riding because of a past traumatic brain injury, and trying to play the “cool girl” that doesn’t care about anything and lets Luke do whatever he wants. Many scholars feel that the “cool girl” doesn’t actually exists and girls just act this way to appeal to men, whether it is subconsciously or consciously. Throughout the rest of the film, we don’t see much of this stereotype portrayed, which is support the theory that she is only acting this way to get a boy to like her and think she is “nothing like everyone else.”
To me, this film was very mediocre. I was quite distracted from the plot by the bad acting and how cheesy it seemed. I think a large part of what makes girls want to go to this movie, and other romantic movies, is the fact that Luke is very attractive. The opposite is probably true for males who attend this film and find Sophia attractive. This is problematic because it is placing unrealistic expectations of what adolescents and young adults need to look like to get the “perfect guy” (or girl).
The camera angles were important in this film for objectifying women. They were strategically used when showing the backside of the girl in the short skirt as mentioned above. It was also used to show Luke looking at Sophia while she was undressing, showing both the gaze and wanting to be looked at. The lighting was also used to emphasize the gaze while Sophia was undressing in the shower. She was lit up more than everything else around her to draw your eyes onto her.
This cinema experience was different from most cinema experiences I’ve had. I decided to go last minute with my roommate on Sunday night at 10:15pm. It was very spontaneous which made it fun and exciting. Since it was so late and on a Sunday night, I was not surprised when we were the only ones in the movie theater. This was a little weird, but I also like it because we could laugh and talk about what was happening in the movie without worrying about bothering other people in the theater. This outing also cost more than I wanted to spend. We went to the AMC movie theater in the Rosedale Mall, and the building was very large and seemed pretty new. The ticket was $11.24, which is probably the most I’ve ever paid for a movie. Food was definitely encouraged to buy. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the building, and there were many posters and signs advertising deals. They even gave us a coupon for pizza and pop to buy at the concession stand when we bought our tickets. I ended up buying a small popcorn and a medium drink, which was also about $11. I was a little disappointed in how expensive this trip was all together. There was no audience besides my friend and me, but we laughed out loud quite a bit. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience because I got to spend time with my friend and get a little break from homework and studying.