Safe Haven Reviews
Very Good Film! The whole film seemed so natural that there was an obvious, stark contrast to the drama and thriller aspect in the end. The script was given a twist, and I sat through most of the film not quiet sure what was going to happen next, it definitely kept me intrigued, although I found it a little slow at a few points, i still walked away liking the film as a whole. I highly recommend it and would go so far as to say it's a must see! Of course the romantic comedy fans will eat it up, but the men who are dragged along might enjoy it more than they think!
A young woman with a mysterious past lands in Southport, North Carolina where her bond with a widower forces her to confront the dark secret that haunts her.
Nate's Grade: C-
"Safe Haven" is the latest Nicolas Sparks adaptation, and stars Julliene Hough. She's a woman on the run from her husband, when she comes across a small seaside town and tries to create a new life with a new identity. She starts a relationship with Josh Dehumal, a widower with two kids. Things seem to be going good until her husband catches up with her and her true identity is revealed. This being a Sparks movie means it's predictable and there are boats, rain, drama, and maybe a death or two. It's funny when watching this my wife and I would mention every Sparks cliché we would see. "Oh look, their kissing in the rain!" If you do that, this movie might make a good drinking game. Having said that, I was bored with the movie overall. The acting isn't that good, and the story is "meh, been there done that". There's a little twist at the end, that did nothing for me. I think Emily thought it was OK, but this is definitely one of worse Sparks movies out there. I'm sure a lot of women will like it, but guys don't waste your time, it's not worth it, and I saw it for free.
The good part of the movie is about 15 minutes before the end - finally some drama and scares! The actual end, however, had me reaching for a vomit bucket with that note, and actually I didn't get who the wife was until I read someone else's spoiler. She kind of looked different in the writing scene. So yes, fail.
'Safe Haven' is the latest big-screen adaptation of a novel by that literary force of nature, Nicholas Sparks, an author who I imagine woos females with the pick-up line "Hello, I'm Nicholas Sparks". His books, and the resulting films, ('The Notebook', 'Dear John', 'The Lucky One' etc), usually follow a similar template involving a mysterious leading male character and a smitten female who helps him confront his demons. With 'Safe Haven', he turns this idea on his head, positioning Katie as the troubled lead running from her past. For most of the film, the story plays like 'The Fugitive' meets 'Dawson's Creek'. Then things take a bizarre twist. Spoilers to follow...
I usually attempt my best to avoid spoilers but there's really no way to discuss this film without analyzing its two major, and completely ludicrous, plot twists. Throughout the first half of the film we see Detective Tierney harass the elderly neighbor who helped Katie escape. He even shows her a photo of Katie for identification purposes. Then, in the third act, it's revealed that Tierney is none other than Katie's abusive husband whom she stabbed when he attacked her in a drunken rage. This makes absolutely no sense for two reasons. Firstly, we now know he lives across the street from the elderly lady and so obviously knows she would know who his wife is. Why didn't he just ask her "have you seen my wife?". Secondly, at the beginning of the movie we saw him chasing Katie through a bus station with no evidence of a knife wound in his side. As if that wasn't enough, we get the double whammy of a final plot twist which has to go down as the "WTF?" moment of the year. Throughout the film, we see Katie befriend Jo (Smulders), a straight-talkin' Southern girl who encourages Katie's interest in Alex. Well, it turns out Jo is actually no less than the ghost of Alex's dead wife. Had this been a horror movie I would have probably seen that one coming but I never expected a Nicholas Sparks movie to enter 'Sixth Sense' territory.
If you fancy some unintentional laughs, 'Safe Haven' is a gold-mine, one of the most bizarre films you'll see all year.
I thought Julianne Hough was miscast here. In my opinion, she didn't have a good on screen chemistry with Duhamel. Another actress in that role, would have probably done a better job. However, Duhamel, Cobie Smulders, and David Lyons are great in their roles.
You know that strengths are slim when you have to go so far to compliments shooting locations, but really, from what I can gather, environment is a somewhat major aspect in Nicholas Sparks stories, which celebrate their settings as story and theme components that need to be well-selected in the long run, and indeed are, for although we're not exactly hanging out in the Bahamas here, this film's Southport, North Carolina, setting boasts a secure warmth and subtle loveliness that helps in defining this story in some ways. True, it's often hard to get all that firm of a grip on the thematic value behind this film's environment, but if you bond with nothing else when it comes to this story, then you're bound to be a little connected to the immersive value behind attractive location tastes, and maybe even the engagement value behind some decent performances. Now, as you can probably imagine, there's very little for our performers to work with, so there are no truly outstanding performances in this film, with the underused David Lyons going so far as to be all-out weak in uneven, borlingly under-expressive, when not cheesily overdone performance, yet there are more decent notes to this cast than I expected, with the lovely, but usually hit-or-miss Julianne Hough being, not necessarily revelatory, but worth commenting on in this film, as she convinces and charms enough to bond with her role and do the best that she can to sell you on character depth and keep this character study afloat. Hough and company are underwritten, but, with the exception of Lyons, generally adequate in their efforts, and a film like this at least needs that, being a sloppily written character piece whose characters remain well-portrayed enough to earn some moderate degree of your investment, almost entirely through the charm that all but saves the final product. Now, don't get me wrong, the film isn't so charming that it entertains to the point of achieving, at the very least, decency, and what charm there is is largely achieved only through sheer somewhat endearing ambition, but when it's all said and done, it's hard to deny that this film does try. Sure, the final product's efforts to escape mediocrity are to no avail, but there is something to like in the telling of this generally unlikable tale, and with that charm going bonded with the aformentioned strengths, - few though there may be - the final product comes out standing on the edge of genuine decency. Still, no matter how much the film tries, it doesn't quite make it to decency, being far from dislikable, but too disengaging to satisfy, at least on some level, thanks in part to, of all things, unevenness in pacing.
Sure, there have more more messily paced Nicholas Sparks films, but make no mistake, this film's storytelling is hardly all that tight, slapdashing certain aspects in a rather awkward fashion that throws off momentum, though not quite as much as the moments of slow-down, of which, there are too many, being achieved through anything from excess filler to repetition, and detrimental to kicks, especially when accompanied by atmospheric dry spells that further distance engagement value. The film is hardly boring, but it is bland much more often than not, no matter how much it desperately attempts to wake you up with "thriller" aspects at times that would be more effective if they weren't so superficially handled or, of course, forced, breaking through the relatively lighter moments in atmosphere with tonal unevenness that could very well have been thinned out if the film took time to flesh out its tonal layers or, for that matter, anything. Look, it's not like you haven't seen these characters or this story time and again, so it's not like exposition would bring anything new to this film's substance, but some effort has to be made to flesh out this story if it's to be all that engaging, and with this film, while development isn't thrown entirely out of the window, it is thinned out something fierce, failing to cook conflict enough to secure intrigue that is key in any thriller, even ones of this type, which play up thrills only so much and primarily meditate upon character value, something that this film can't even flesh out nearly as much as it should. Sure, there's just enough heart to most of the acting to keep this character study from falling completely flat, but, on paper, the substance behind this drama boasts few organic layers, and only so much expository depth, resulting in superficial characterization that strips away much of the genuineness within the humanity behind this character piece, and disengages you about as much as the histrionics that no paint-by-the-numbers Nick Sparks film would be complete without. Rather surprisingly, Sparks' dialogue tastes aren't quite as sloppily translated as they have been in other adaptations of his melodramas, but Gage Lansky's and Dana Stevens' punch-up is pretty bland, and that gives you quite the opportunity to meditate upon how most every other storytelling aspect is tainted with histrionics, which aren't so intense that the final product comes out resembling a soap opera, but are nonetheless considerable in their corning up dramatic depth with manufactured theatrics that are all too often much too manipulative to be bought into. It all comes down to a twist to an all but entirely superfluous subplot involving Cobie Smulders that is just plain laughable, contradicting the film's general tone and themes in such a ludicrous fashion that you really have do have to see to believe, and yet, with that said, you can still see such a lame turn of events if you look close enough, because this film is too superficial to not be easy to deconstruct, and I guess that would be fine and all, if the last chunks of meat to this bone-dry project weren't firmly plucked off by, of course, genericisms. The film is trite, same as most every effort pertaining to Nick Sparks, and that thoroughly reflects the final product's having very little, if anything in the way of guts, being not so lame that it can't almost be saved as decent by what few strengths it has, but ultimately too undercooked to be all that effective or memorable, thus resulting in a fluff piece that meanders along and eventually collapses into pure and simple mediocrity.
Bottom line, the film's lovely, somewhat definitive locations catch your eyes, while some reasonably decent performances catch some degree of your investment, or at least supplement the moderate degree of charm that almost saves the final product as decent, but can't quite fully work past the offputting unevenness in pacing and tone, expository shortcomings, histrionic superficiality and, of course, intense genericisms that make "Safe Haven" a mediocre effort that could have been decent, but ends up falling flat as forgettably trite.
2.25/5 - Mediocre
In this PG-13-rated drama, a young woman with a mysterious past (Hough) ends up in seaside North Carolina where her attraction to a single dad (Duhamel) forces her to stop running.
"There's no safer place in the world than right here with me." Apparently, actor Josh Duhamel wasn't sitting in the same theater as me. Oh, this soapy romance plays it Safe...only too safe, stuck firmly in Sparks' predictable sudsy wheelhouse. Julianne Hough builds upon the great promise shown in Footloose and Rock of Ages while Josh Duhamel does his best Josh Duhamel imitation. Together, however, they do throw some, ahem, Sparks. This and an interesting twist at the end save the flick from completely deserving a Dear John letter from moviegoers.
Bottom line: The Yucky One.