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Sparks Notes: Because 'The Longest Ride' is life, you guys

“Sparks Notes” is one hot-blooded woman’s deep dive into the Nicholas Sparks film oeuvre. Each week, we’ll journey through another movie based on a Sparks novel. Why? Because I’m a lover of romance and the gratuitous use of extremely well-made male forearms—and honestly, I have the time. So, if you’re a Sparks fan, join me as we feel the love, mourn the dying, ogle all the beautiful people who moved to North Carolina, and cry … a lot. Sounds fun, right? Needless to say: SPOILERS ABOUND.

Let’s welcome the newest addition to the Sparks movie collection: The Longest Ride. I recently braved the awkwardness that is a morning screening with an audience of just me and four middle-aged men riding solo, so that I could report back on things like Scott Eastwood’s bull-riding skills (he rides things well), Alan Alda’s ability to make a grown woman cry via voiceover (happened twice!), and how a person feels when she’s reminded that no matter how happy you are in life, everyone dies eventually (read: NOT GREAT).

The Longest Ride | Released Apr 10, 2015

Directed by George Tillman Jr | Written by Craig Bolotin, based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks

Starring Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Oona Chaplin, Jack Huston, Alan Alda

Scott Eastwood and Britt Robertson in Nicholas Sparks

TO MAKE A LONG STORY SHORT-ISH: Meet Luke Collins (Scott Eastwood). He, like Mary Poppins before him, is practically perfect in every way. No, seriously, I made a list: excels at a sexy job, confides in mother, hates pretentious art, keeps a Pinterest-worthy bathroom stocked with fresh towels, great butt, saves lives, is kind to the elderly—I could go on.

At the top, Luke suffers a horrific accident during a rodeo. Eventually, we’ll learn that he’s been advised to stop riding or risk death, but this cowboy don’t care! A year later, Luke—still bull-riding—has a meet-cute with the driven, art-loving, NYC-bound sorority girl Sophia Danko (Britt Robertson). It is sufficiently cheesy and involves the American cousin of the Sorting Hat; the hat has magic powers, is all I’m saying.

On their first date, they happen upon an elderly man (Alan Alda) in a car accident. Luke rescues the man (Ira) and Sophia rescues his precious box full of letters he wrote to his wife. Throughout Ira’s recovery, Sophia spends time reading the letters to him.

Here’s Ira’s story: 1940s Ira (played by Jack Huston) meets Ruth (Oona Chaplin)—she loves art and wants a big family—and instantly falls in love. They’re on their way to marriage until: World War II. While on the front lines, Ira suffers an injury, rendering him impotent, which I believe is called “Matthew Crawley War Penis Syndrome,” but I’m not a doctor.

Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston in Nicholas Sparks

The two spend their childless days collecting art and being beautiful humans, until Ruth decides that she’d like to adopt a boy, Daniel, from her class. The plan goes awry and their relationship suffers for it. One evening, Ruth informs Ira she’s leaving him. All Ira wants is for her to be happy—even if that happiness doesn’t include him. The four men scattered around my theater and I were BAWLING.

Don’t worry; she eventually comes to her senses! Ira and Ruth live out the rest of their days truly happy, until Ruth succumbs to the greatest villain of all: old age. While mourning his wife’s death, Ira receives a visitor—Daniel’s wife. Turns out, thanks to Ruth, (the late) Daniel went on to become a successful professor. She gifts Ira with a portrait Daniel drew of Ruth. Remember that because it’s important.

So, what have Luke and Sophia been up to this whole time? Sophia plays coy, but then she opens her eyes and realizes she could be hooking up with Clint Eastwood’s son. So they get together and have very, VERY steamy shower sex. Steamy both ways!

Things are going well until Sophia finds out that Luke could die if he continues to ride. She refuses to sit around while that happens. He claims he’s riding to keep the family ranch open, and also, it’s ALL HE KNOWS. In short: He’s being such a dude about it.

In the end, Ira dies but leaves word that both Sophia and Luke should attend the auction for his and Ruth’s art collection. Luke wins his last competition, but realizes it means nothing without Sophia. A bull ride lasts eight seconds, but love lasts a lifetime, Luke!

He rushes over to the auction (which is full of Warhols and Pollocks, naturally), and bids on the first item up: Daniel’s portrait of Ruth.

IN A TWIST: Ira stipulated that whoever buys Ruth’s portrait gets the entire collection. Luke was just being a romantic, but now he’s a millionaire.

AND WHAT DID WE LEARN ABOUT LOVE IN CLASS TODAY? True love requires sacrifice. This idea is expertly demonstrated by Ruth and Ira’s story (Can Oona Chaplin and Jack Huston just be in everything together?): Ruth gives up having kids; Ira is willing to let Ruth leave. In theory, Luke and Sophia make sacrifices to be together, but let’s all get a grip. Luke “leaves” bull riding after he pretty much wins the championship (I think? I’m still unclear on how bull riding works) and becomes a millionaire by accident. Sophia “gives up” her big art-gallery job in NYC to run the Ira and Ruth Levinson Museum in North Carolina and have sex with an ex-bull rider all the time. HOW TERRIBLE FOR YOU.

BUT HOW DID IT MAKE YOU FEEL? Ultimately hopeful, and also, at times, like I needed a cold shower. If that’s not a ringing endorsement to see a movie, I don’t know what is.


  • Are the two main characters from different worlds? Yes, big time. Luke is a cowboy and Sophia wears formal shorts.
  • Are there parents who don’t approve? Nope! Everyone ships the hell out of both couples.
  • Is there time spent palling around in some type of water-based location? We get both fully dressed ocean play (Ira and Ruth) and swimming in a lake wearing undies (Luke and Sophia). Everybody wins!
  • Does someone die? Ruth and Ira. Silver lining: They both die after very long lives with their One True Love. So, not that gut-wrenching, all Sparks considered.
  • Is there a wise older person? Old Ira dispenses wisdom on wisdom on wisdom.
  • Do the men perform activities that require well-developed forearms? Obviously, Luke has this covered, what with the bull riding and the cattle ranching. However, my favorite use of male forearms was young Ira gardening. Also, young Ira hanging paintings. Really, young Ira doing anything, LET’S BE HONEST.

Next up: The Best of Me. If you’re lucky, I’ll treat you to both the original and the “Tears of Joy” edition. Yes, that is a thing that exists.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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