the on-screen chemistry of every nicholas sparks couple, ranked

    which sparks couple has the most sparks?

    by Bilge Ebiri · April 09, 2015

    Photo via New Line Cinema

    Lush Southern settings, beautifully tormented lovers, and tragic storylines. Yes, there’s a new Nicholas Sparks movie out. This week’s The Longest Ride brings together the world of competitive bull-riding, art history, and a star-crossed romance set in North Carolina’s Jewish community during WWII (no, really). Over the years, the author of The Notebook and countless other romantic potboilers has become Hollywood’s go-to source for (often teen-friendly) passion. Here’s the thing with Sparks adaptations, though: The plots may be ridiculous, the dialogue hare-brained, but somehow, none of that matters if the romantic leads have real chemistry. So, we went through all the Sparks-based movies Hollywood has given us to date, and assessed the onscreen couples (there are thirteen of them, because some movies have more than one) based on how good they are together. 

    <b>13. Ronnie Miller (Miley Cyrus) and Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth), <i>The Last Song</i></b><br>Poor, gorgeous, strapping Liam Hemsworth does all he can as a supremely wealthy volleyball hero/aquarium volunteer/auto mechanic who falls for snotty, bitter teen Miley Cyrus one summer on the South Carolina shore. But Cyrus, still in her teen icon phase, is awesomely miscast. She overdoes the anger, so her character comes off more annoying than troubled. That, in turn, kills their chemistry dead, since we keep wondering what he sees in her. There’s just a real mismatch between the two actors here: She seems like she’s in a teen imitation of a Nicholas Sparks movie, whereas he seems like he’s in a real movie. (As Miley’s dad, all poor Greg Kinnear can do is look on from his porch, and die.)

    Photo via Touchstone Pictures

    13. Ronnie Miller (Miley Cyrus) and Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth), The Last Song
    Poor, gorgeous, strapping Liam Hemsworth does all he can as a supremely wealthy volleyball hero/aquarium volunteer/auto mechanic who falls for snotty, bitter teen Miley Cyrus one summer on the South Carolina shore. But Cyrus, still in her teen icon phase, is awesomely miscast. She overdoes the anger, so her character comes off more annoying than troubled. That, in turn, kills their chemistry dead, since we keep wondering what he sees in her. There’s just a real mismatch between the two actors here: She seems like she’s in a teen imitation of a Nicholas Sparks movie, whereas he seems like he’s in a real movie. (As Miley’s dad, all poor Greg Kinnear can do is look on from his porch, and die.)
    <b>12. Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) and Landon Carter (Shane West), <i>A Walk to Remember</i></b><br>Mandy Moore is so adorable here as the good girl with a sad secret that you can almost overlook the fact that she in no way seems to belong with West’s slimy pretty boy. Of course, that’s kind of the idea: He’s a troublemaker, and she’s the preacher’s daughter who teaches him to love and care and all those good things. And, to be fair, this movie has quite a bit of a following—the two actors even won a Teen Choice Award for Best Chemistry at the time. They’re both certainly very good looking, but West’s limitations as an actor are a problem: We buy him as a jerk, but his transformation into a good kid never really resonates. Still, the vulnerability Moore brings to her part is really something; you want their love to work out, if only because she’s so damned likable.&nbsp;

    Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

    12. Jamie Sullivan (Mandy Moore) and Landon Carter (Shane West), A Walk to Remember
    Mandy Moore is so adorable here as the good girl with a sad secret that you can almost overlook the fact that she in no way seems to belong with West’s slimy pretty boy. Of course, that’s kind of the idea: He’s a troublemaker, and she’s the preacher’s daughter who teaches him to love and care and all those good things. And, to be fair, this movie has quite a bit of a following—the two actors even won a Teen Choice Award for Best Chemistry at the time. They’re both certainly very good looking, but West’s limitations as an actor are a problem: We buy him as a jerk, but his transformation into a good kid never really resonates. Still, the vulnerability Moore brings to her part is really something; you want their love to work out, if only because she’s so damned likable. 
    <b>11. Young Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato), <i>The Best of Me<br></i></b>As the young versions of the lovers in <i>The Best of Me</i>, seen in flashback, Bracey and Liberato have one huge handicap: They—and in particular he—look absolutely nothing like their grown-up counterparts, played by James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan. It’s genuinely distracting, to the extent that you wonder if the big plot twist will turn out to be that the characters changed identities with someone else.&nbsp;<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via Best of Me Productions

    11. Young Dawson Cole (Luke Bracey) and Amanda Collier (Liana Liberato), The Best of Me
    As the young versions of the lovers in The Best of Me, seen in flashback, Bracey and Liberato have one huge handicap: They—and in particular he—look absolutely nothing like their grown-up counterparts, played by James Marsden and Michelle Monaghan. It’s genuinely distracting, to the extent that you wonder if the big plot twist will turn out to be that the characters changed identities with someone else. 

    <b>10. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) and Savannah Lynn Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), <i>Dear John<br></i></b>Here’s an interesting situation: Two terrific actors giving perfectly fine performances, and yet they have tepid chemistry with one another. Tatum’s the beefy surfer-bro and Green Beret who meets smart-girl Seyfried one summer. They fall for each other, but then 9/11 intervenes, and he spends the next few years fighting abroad. The actors are well-cast: She’s appropriately fresh-faced and intelligent, and he’s a submerged, quiet fellow with a lot of pent-up rage an ideal role for this physically gifted, terse actor. But we don’t quite buy them as a couple. Ironically enough, this doesn’t damage the movie too much: The two characters spend much of the film apart from one another, and the most touching scenes have to do with Tatum’s father, played by Richard Jenkins.<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via Screen Gems Productions

    10. John Tyree (Channing Tatum) and Savannah Lynn Curtis (Amanda Seyfried), Dear John
    Here’s an interesting situation: Two terrific actors giving perfectly fine performances, and yet they have tepid chemistry with one another. Tatum’s the beefy surfer-bro and Green Beret who meets smart-girl Seyfried one summer. They fall for each other, but then 9/11 intervenes, and he spends the next few years fighting abroad. The actors are well-cast: She’s appropriately fresh-faced and intelligent, and he’s a submerged, quiet fellow with a lot of pent-up rage an ideal role for this physically gifted, terse actor. But we don’t quite buy them as a couple. Ironically enough, this doesn’t damage the movie too much: The two characters spend much of the film apart from one another, and the most touching scenes have to do with Tatum’s father, played by Richard Jenkins.

    <b>9. Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) and Beth Greene (Taylor Schilling), <i>The Lucky One<br></i></b>Schilling does most of the work here, as a troubled, divorced kennel owner romanced by a returning vet who saw her in a photo that saved his life. Both characters are supposed to be emotionally wounded, but Efron’s lack of depth kills that idea dead; he’s out of his element as a brooding, tough guy vet. Luckily, their chemistry is mostly on point: When the two actors are looking at each other with those beautiful peepers of theirs, everything else kind of fades away. (Contrast this with the aforementioned <i>Dear John—</i>a better, and better acted, movie with mostly flat chemistry.)&nbsp;<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

    9. Logan Thibault (Zac Efron) and Beth Greene (Taylor Schilling), The Lucky One
    Schilling does most of the work here, as a troubled, divorced kennel owner romanced by a returning vet who saw her in a photo that saved his life. Both characters are supposed to be emotionally wounded, but Efron’s lack of depth kills that idea dead; he’s out of his element as a brooding, tough guy vet. Luckily, their chemistry is mostly on point: When the two actors are looking at each other with those beautiful peepers of theirs, everything else kind of fades away. (Contrast this with the aforementioned Dear John—a better, and better acted, movie with mostly flat chemistry.) 

    <b>8. Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhamel) and Katie Feldman (Julianne Hough), <i>Safe Haven<br></i></b>He’s a widowed small-town grocery owner with kids; she’s a beautiful, mysterious drifter with a past. Duhamel’s grizzled charm is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing. Hough isn’t nearly the actor he is, but the two aren’t bad together. There’s a lovely scene at the beach where their arms casually touch—the movie, to its credit, doesn’t dwell on the moment at all—and we can sense the electricity between them. A shame about the rest of this terrible, twisty-turny romantic thriller, though.<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via Relativity Media

    8. Alex Wheatley (Josh Duhamel) and Katie Feldman (Julianne Hough), Safe Haven
    He’s a widowed small-town grocery owner with kids; she’s a beautiful, mysterious drifter with a past. Duhamel’s grizzled charm is pretty much perfect for this sort of thing. Hough isn’t nearly the actor he is, but the two aren’t bad together. There’s a lovely scene at the beach where their arms casually touch—the movie, to its credit, doesn’t dwell on the moment at all—and we can sense the electricity between them. A shame about the rest of this terrible, twisty-turny romantic thriller, though.

    <b>7. Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), <i>The Longest Ride<br></i></b>As a bull-riding star and an art history major who fall for each other, Eastwood (son of Clint) and Robertson are playing classic Sparksian opposites. They’re both a bit bland, and don’t generate a ton of heat. Still, their quiet moments together are effective—you sense that these two people from different worlds really do want to get to know each other.&nbsp;<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via 20th Century Fox

    7. Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood) and Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson), The Longest Ride
    As a bull-riding star and an art history major who fall for each other, Eastwood (son of Clint) and Robertson are playing classic Sparksian opposites. They’re both a bit bland, and don’t generate a ton of heat. Still, their quiet moments together are effective—you sense that these two people from different worlds really do want to get to know each other. 

    <b>6. Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) and Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), <i>Nights in Rodanthe<br></i></b>Separated mother of two Lane temporarily takes over her pal’s island bed and breakfast, only to find herself with one lone guest—a handsome, brooding surgeon played by Richard Gere. He’s not there for love, however; he’s there to confront a man whose wife died on his operating table. Luckily, Diane Lane is magnificent—alternately resigned, hopeful, excited, angry, smitten, sad. Her character starts off the movie wanting to get away from the world, but finds herself re-engaging with it when faced with this broken, but very good-looking man. As for Gere, he’s an actor who, even at his worst, can exude charisma. (Remember how in <i>An Officer and a Gentleman</i>, he and Debra Winger hated each other, yet somehow became one of the greatest onscreen couples of all time?)&nbsp;

    Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

    6. Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) and Paul Flanner (Richard Gere), Nights in Rodanthe
    Separated mother of two Lane temporarily takes over her pal’s island bed and breakfast, only to find herself with one lone guest—a handsome, brooding surgeon played by Richard Gere. He’s not there for love, however; he’s there to confront a man whose wife died on his operating table. Luckily, Diane Lane is magnificent—alternately resigned, hopeful, excited, angry, smitten, sad. Her character starts off the movie wanting to get away from the world, but finds herself re-engaging with it when faced with this broken, but very good-looking man. As for Gere, he’s an actor who, even at his worst, can exude charisma. (Remember how in An Officer and a Gentleman, he and Debra Winger hated each other, yet somehow became one of the greatest onscreen couples of all time?) 
    <b>5. Dawson Cole (James Marsden) and Amanda Collier (Michelle Monaghan), <i>The Best of Me<br></i></b>Marsden, who played the man Rachel McAdams <i>didn’t</i> love in <i>The Notebook</i>, gets his chance to be the romantic lead here, and he’s pretty good—just eager enough—as the soulful, handsome, haunted man dreaming of the love he gave up many years ago. The beautiful Monaghan, for her part, makes the hesitation of her character—now a mother, stuck in an unhappy marriage—palpable. The two circle and circle each other, and although the film is full of ridiculously heavy-handed dialogue and half-hearted, rushed melodrama, you feel like they belong together.&nbsp;<b><i><br></i></b><b><i><br></i></b>

    Photo via Best of Me Productions

    5. Dawson Cole (James Marsden) and Amanda Collier (Michelle Monaghan), The Best of Me
    Marsden, who played the man Rachel McAdams didn’t love in The Notebook, gets his chance to be the romantic lead here, and he’s pretty good—just eager enough—as the soulful, handsome, haunted man dreaming of the love he gave up many years ago. The beautiful Monaghan, for her part, makes the hesitation of her character—now a mother, stuck in an unhappy marriage—palpable. The two circle and circle each other, and although the film is full of ridiculously heavy-handed dialogue and half-hearted, rushed melodrama, you feel like they belong together. 

    <b>4. Elderly Noah Calhoun (James Garner) and Allie Hamilton (Gena Rowlands), <i>The Notebook<br></i></b>The present-day iterations of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’s characters in <i>The Notebook </i>are played by veterans James Garner and Gena Rowlands, who don’t get a lot of screen time but have a deceptive amount of heavy lifting to do. She has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember him; he comes to her room every day and reads to her from a notebook detailing their young romance. How to assess the chemistry of two characters who, for much of the film, don’t seem to know each other? Rowlands is alternately intrigued by this man, and scared of how lost she feels—but in those precious moments when she’s lucid again, there’s real love in her eyes. He, for his part, is the very picture of stoic determination. Appropriate, given the driven nature of his character in the film’s flashback romance.

    Photo via New Line Cinema

    4. Elderly Noah Calhoun (James Garner) and Allie Hamilton (Gena Rowlands), The Notebook
    The present-day iterations of Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams’s characters in The Notebook are played by veterans James Garner and Gena Rowlands, who don’t get a lot of screen time but have a deceptive amount of heavy lifting to do. She has Alzheimer’s and doesn’t remember him; he comes to her room every day and reads to her from a notebook detailing their young romance. How to assess the chemistry of two characters who, for much of the film, don’t seem to know each other? Rowlands is alternately intrigued by this man, and scared of how lost she feels—but in those precious moments when she’s lucid again, there’s real love in her eyes. He, for his part, is the very picture of stoic determination. Appropriate, given the driven nature of his character in the film’s flashback romance.
    <b>3. Theresa Osborne (Robin Wright) and Garret Blake (Kevin Costner), <i>Message in a Bottle<br></i></b>The very first Nicholas Sparks adaptation also happens to be one of the best, in part because it’s so well-stocked with terrific actors. (Paul Newman is also here, playing Kevin Costner’s gruff, plainspoken dad.) Chief among them is Wright, who brings a giddy emotional edge to the part of a single mom Chicago newspaper reporter who discovers three romantic letters cast into the ocean in bottles, written by a mysterious North Carolina man to his dead wife. Costner is in his classic ‘90s soulful man-candy mode here, but there’s a frayed humility to his performance; this part came after a number of high-profile disasters (<i>Waterworld</i>, <i>The Postman</i>) for the actor, and it was seen as an attempt to reclaim his leading man status. The two leads’ energies work off each other: She’s energetic, nervous, and enthusiastic; he’s melancholy, and withdrawn. She brings him out of his gloom, while he helps ground her.&nbsp;

    Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures

    3. Theresa Osborne (Robin Wright) and Garret Blake (Kevin Costner), Message in a Bottle
    The very first Nicholas Sparks adaptation also happens to be one of the best, in part because it’s so well-stocked with terrific actors. (Paul Newman is also here, playing Kevin Costner’s gruff, plainspoken dad.) Chief among them is Wright, who brings a giddy emotional edge to the part of a single mom Chicago newspaper reporter who discovers three romantic letters cast into the ocean in bottles, written by a mysterious North Carolina man to his dead wife. Costner is in his classic ‘90s soulful man-candy mode here, but there’s a frayed humility to his performance; this part came after a number of high-profile disasters (Waterworld, The Postman) for the actor, and it was seen as an attempt to reclaim his leading man status. The two leads’ energies work off each other: She’s energetic, nervous, and enthusiastic; he’s melancholy, and withdrawn. She brings him out of his gloom, while he helps ground her. 
    <b>2. Ira (Jack Huston) and Ruth Levinson (Oona Chaplin), <i>The Longest Ride<br></i></b>The grandson of John Huston and the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin are Hollywood royalty—and it shows. Playing two star-crossed Jewish lovers during WWII, whose romance plays out in flashback in the film, they bring real passion to an otherwise two-dimensional tale of love and sacrifice. He’s smitten, but indecisive—he can’t take his eyes off her, but always seems to shrink in her presence. She’s boisterous, independent, driven—and she fills the space between them. It’s wonderful watching them together.&nbsp;

    Photo via 20th Century Fox

    2. Ira (Jack Huston) and Ruth Levinson (Oona Chaplin), The Longest Ride
    The grandson of John Huston and the granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin are Hollywood royalty—and it shows. Playing two star-crossed Jewish lovers during WWII, whose romance plays out in flashback in the film, they bring real passion to an otherwise two-dimensional tale of love and sacrifice. He’s smitten, but indecisive—he can’t take his eyes off her, but always seems to shrink in her presence. She’s boisterous, independent, driven—and she fills the space between them. It’s wonderful watching them together. 
    <b>1. Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), <i>The Notebook<br></i></b>Gosling and McAdams set many young hearts aflutter with this movie, and it’s not hard to see why. As the working-class local boy who falls for McAdams’s rich Southern beauty, Gosling’s trademark intensity serves him well: When he fixes his gaze on her, you sense that nothing will deter him. McAdams, on the other hand, brings a real sense of <i>fun</i> to her role—for all the melodrama on display, you sense the fact that she really enjoys being in love with this wild, beautiful boy. This is an utterly ridiculous movie, but the chemistry between these two papers over a lot of flaws.&nbsp;
<p><br></p>

    Photo via New Line Cinema

    1. Noah Calhoun (Ryan Gosling) and Allie Hamilton (Rachel McAdams), The Notebook
    Gosling and McAdams set many young hearts aflutter with this movie, and it’s not hard to see why. As the working-class local boy who falls for McAdams’s rich Southern beauty, Gosling’s trademark intensity serves him well: When he fixes his gaze on her, you sense that nothing will deter him. McAdams, on the other hand, brings a real sense of fun to her role—for all the melodrama on display, you sense the fact that she really enjoys being in love with this wild, beautiful boy. This is an utterly ridiculous movie, but the chemistry between these two papers over a lot of flaws. 


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