As a film critic, I am quite used to people (mostly readers) telling me that my take on movies is just “off” sometimes; that I’ve missed the point completely, or taken a movie too seriously. Or not seriously enough. Or all of the above.
Fine. But where I am steadfast is when it comes to any movie based on the writing of one Mr. Nicholas Sparks. I have no doubt that Mr. Sparks has many a romantic and nurturing bone in his body. What I cannot tolerate, however, is how those nurturing romantic yearnings manifest themselves in blatantly misogynistic ways in every feature film/novel/tv movie he has ever written.
His movies follow a basic pattern: take a female who is by necessity haunted by something in her past, usually a lover or an abusive husband. Occasionally she meets with an accident or an illness. Move her to a new town. And then have her fall in love with a handsome stranger who promises to love her the “right” way.
In The Notebook it was Alzheimer’s she needed to be saved from. In The Vow it was amnesia. In The Lucky One it was a douche bag of a boyfriend. In Nights in Rodanthe it was the ghost of a failed marriage. And so on and so on. Sparks seems incapable of understanding women as anything other than damsels in constant distress who need handsome male saviors to redeem them and deliver them their happily-ever-afters. In 2013. Hiss, spit, and groan. And vomit. And spew.
The same forces are at play in the hideously saccharine new Sparks-written feature, Safe Haven. This is basically a retelling of Sleeping with the Enemy, only less grisly and more cutesy. Julianne Hough is no Julia Roberts, and she seems literally bored into one expression. The same is true for Josh Duhamel who seems more preoccupied with his tan than he does with his romantic foil…until she needs to be saved, that is.
Sparks is an awful writer: derivative, clichéd, and utterly catering to the lowest denominator, common or otherwise. Much has been made in recent months about the Republican war on women; I humbly submit that Nicholas Sparks has been waging a war on women in film and on the written page for the last decade.