SAFE HAVEN

SAFE HAVEN

 

By Gary Murray

Starring Julianne Hough, Josh Duhamel and Cobie Smulders

Written Leslie Bohem and Dana Stevens

Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Directed by Lasse Hallstrom

Running time 115 min

MPAA Rating PG-13

Selig Film Rating Matinee

 

Nicholas Sparks has become a brand-name.  The author has turning out a ton of novels, all of a romantic nature that have sold millions of copies.  These books have been turned into some of the more successful romances of cinema.  Some of the titles have been Message in a Bottle, The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe.  His latest is Safe Haven.

The film starts with a woman running out of a house.  She is terrified by what is going on inside and has to get out.  Very soon, she is on the road, traveling on a bus.  Eventually she ends up in Southport, NC.  It is one of those blips on the map, the smallest of small coastal towns.

She takes the name Katie and begins to build a life.  Almost instantly she gets a job as a waitress and a very small cabin in the woods.  She meets her neighbor Jo (Cobie Smulders) a woman who seems stuck in her own holding pattern.  Jo and Katie build a tentative friendship that is tethered by loneliness.

Katie also meets local grocery store owner Alex (Josh Duhamel).  He’s a widower with two adorable kids.  Showing instant interest in Katie, Alex tries to become the supportive friend to the young woman.  The kids sense something special about Katie and also bond with her.

On the other side of the plot, Tierney (David Lyons) is a cop looking for a woman.  He has been injured and is a heavy drinker.  Since he has all the resources of law enforcement, he sends out an all-points bulletin for first-degree murder on a young woman.  That young woman is Katie.

Everybody knows that these two different worlds will eventually collide and that the new existence will be destroyed by the ghosts of the past.  There are few surprises in Safe Haven which includes the surprise ending which isn’t much of a surprise.

This film is not for me but for women.  Just like girls do not understand the Three Stooges, guys generally do not get these types of romances. 

That said, Safe Haven is a very watchable flick.  It starts like a mystery and has a few elements that one does not expect from a Nicholas Sparks film.  The movie bobs and weaves along, trying to throw some different aspects into the genre.

Safe Haven is directed by Lasse Hallstrom, the cinematic artist behind The Cider House Rules and Dear John.  He gives us much of the same, characters trying to make sense in a world that seems to have none.   There is this feeling in the film that one is not watching a performance of actors but of a true-to-life story.  Lasse captures a warmth of the situation that so few directors have the knack to catch. 

Julianne Hough is a charming performer who has been in some forgettable movies.  She appeared in Burlesque, Rock of Ages and Footloose—all films that failed to set the box office on fire.  She seemed to be hired more for her singing and dancing than her acting.  Here she proves that she can not only carry a film, but can do it with different emotional tones.  She is a charming presence, very girl-next-door and non-threatening. 

Josh Duhamel comes across more as bored than engaged in Safe Haven.  His character is not given much to do in motion picture.  He is more of an object of affection than a three-dimensional character. There is this certain charm but at the end of the day he is just another dull leading man. 

A much more interesting character is the cop Tierney played by David Lyons.  He is the cop looking for Katie, the drunkard husband who will not let her go.  He brings a fire (both literally and figuratively) to the film that it desperately needs.  

Safe Haven is a film marketed for Valentine’s Day.  It is a couple’s romance that will draw souls together.  It is also for groups of lonely-hearts women looking for an escape that a box of chocolates will not fill. 

 

 

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