“The Choice” is just another cheesy romantic movie where the bad boy wins the good girl. The theater was filled with couples, which is not surprising — this film is unapologetically marketing itself as a date-night movie in time for Valentine’s Day. Without the holiday, there isn’t really a source of hype for such a formulaic story. Nicholas Sparks is a lucky, lucky writer to have such a devoted fanbase that he can more or less fill movie theaters with the same story more than ten times; he's even started his own production company dedicated to this growing franchise. “The Choice,” its first feature, highlights his hallmarks at their cheesiest.
“The Choice” is about studious medical student Gaby Holland (Teresa Palmer, “Point Break”) who moves in next to Travis Parker (Benjamin Walker, “In the Heart of the Sea”), a laidback womanizer with Southern charm. Like in so many other movies, the way they annoy each other to no end from the minute they first meet eventually brings them closer. Alas, there are several obstacles standing in the way of Gaby and Travis realizing their destiny: she has a serious boyfriend and, he has been in an on-and-off relationship for a very long time. In spite of this, they increasingly spend time together and start hooking up without a second thought. When they cheat so readily, their potentional commitment is put into question. Eventually, Gaby’s boyfriend proposes, and she rejects him by revealing her affair.
The way Travis and Gaby become a couple would be unintentionally hilarious if it didn’t show a blatant disregard for Gaby’s ability to make her own decisions. Travis essentially breaks into Gaby’s family home and proposes to her. The scene is comical, as no one is shocked by his sudden appearance and life-altering proposition. Worse, after Gaby explicitly rejects him, Travis grabs her head and tells her to say “yes” repeatedly as her parents urge her to do the same. It’s not surprising they get married, because Gaby does love Travis at this point. But the way she is forced to come to her senses by a man who loves her because she wouldn’t give in to him easily like his past girlfriends portrays women as not knowing what they want, even when they are being crystal clear. These scenes illustrate the logical shortcomings of basing a romance solely on the overused concept of “opposites attract” — they may actually dislike each other.
Since this is a Nicholas Sparks adaptation, there is obviously a medical emergency that puts the future of the couple in jeopardy. How Travis deals with this is the choice referred to in the title. The health crisis feels more like an afterthought than the development of a story arc, stuck at the end of what would otherwise feel like a commercial to visit the filming locale.
Overall, “The Choice” is just another romance film with nothing new to add, not even to the growing roster of Nicholas Sparks adaptations. It uses the same formula followed by every cliché love story ever, with the relationship, not surprisingly, developing way too quickly. They never share what they see in each other and what would make them give up their partners so quickly, other than that they “bother each other,” which is one childish way to say that opposites attract. Even this recurring theme of having opposing personalities is flawed, as they become more like each other throughout the course of the movie. Though Travis is the womanizer, he was not seeing his girlfriend when he began seeing Gaby, making her the one who “gets around.” Though she is the one with big plans for her future, her ambitions disappear after she meets Travis, trading in the possibility of either of them having goals in favor of having children.
I don’t know why women and their commendable partners support this unholy genre. Is Hollywood tapping into, or deciding women’s fantasies? Either way, what good is a partner if they just tell you how much they want you in their life, and how happy they are that you said “yes” to being theirs? You are more than some prize to be won.