Yet another Nicholas Sparks adaptation, but one that is rather sweet and charming at times without ramming love so far down your throat that it comes out the other end (in this case it just hits your stomach and makes you gag a little, but that’s not so bad). However it is also a story that struggles to connect the audience with its characters.
The Choice follows the relationship of Gabby (Palmer) and Travis (Walker), two people who could not be further apart, characteristically speaking. When they initially meet, Travis is the arrogant yet lovable guy-next-door (literally) to Gabby’s uptight and stubborn (yet… pretty? She doesn’t have a whole lot going for her) girl-already-in-a-relationship. As they make their way through their own relationship (which is naturally full of trials and tribulations, as is typical of a Sparks story) they come to find that they just can’t live without each other.
The story as a whole is quite endearing, however the two main characters are hit and miss. Travis is the hit, and that is entirely down to Walker’s performance and delivery of what could otherwise have been quite the annoyingly pompous and then love-sick character. Gabby is the miss, and that is in part down to Palmer’s performance. She plays Gabby in such a way that makes it difficult for the audience to connect – she’s written to be standoffish, but she’s played too standoffish, and frankly she’s rather annoying. If Walker had portrayed Travis as arrogant but too arrogant, he would have been lost to a rather wishy washy script. Gabby’s actions in the first half of the film are also extremely questionable – if I was initially a fan of Gabby, I certainly wouldn’t be after the first half. From the off I disliked her as a character, so my aversion only grew as the film progressed.
The second half, when their relationship is under way, is the better half to an extent. An unexpected event occurs in the life of Travis and Gabby that encourages Travis to evolve himself from the person he once was. He manages to keep his head throughout the ordeal and his devotion to Gabby is highly admirable. It’s this that makes the film worth watching. It could easily have been a chance for Walker to really ham up his role, however he plays it well by balancing the emotion that will entice the audience to connect with him whilst remaining true to the character of Travis.
Two special mentions must go to Welling and Grace for their roles as Gabby’s fiancé Ryan and Travis’s sister Steph, respectively. Though minor roles, their performances helped to ground the two leads in something resembling reality. Ryan’s eventual forgiven-but-not-forgotten attitude towards Travis and Gabby is both mature and satisfying, whilst Steph’s ability to understand and metaphorically slap her brother when needed is, again, satisfying.
The ending wasn’t entirely predictable (you never know if a Sparks story is going to have a happy or sad ending) but either way it felt disappointing, and when I try to think why (without offering any spoilers) I can pinpoint it down to the dialogue in the last ten minutes of the movie. It seemed a bit Disney: it went from heartfelt to heartsick. The entire movie tries to make a real connection, and then the final attempt makes it fall flat on its face.