Safe Haven [Blu-Ray] Lasse Hallström

Safe Haven [Blu-Ray] Lasse Hallström
3
Love, as defined by Nicholas Sparks, is a force unto itself; it's a fatalistic collision often specifically defined by its lack of reason and inconvenience, creating a union between two overly dramatized victims of circumstance who succumb to, or overcome, an oppressive force, whether internal, external or mortal. And because the distinction between love and hormones is never acknowledged within his lexicon of overly sentimental, contrived tragedies, emotion and motivation are idealized and purified to heighten the catharsis and grandiosity of what is ostensibly a greeting card marketing tactic. Safe Haven, though peppered with thriller and supernatural elements, doesn't deviate from this framework. Katie (Julianne Hough), an undefined yet exceedingly affable (read: bland) young woman, flees from Boston to North Carolina — she's wanted for murder — where she rents a shack in the woods and works as a waitress at the local fish and chips restaurant. Though her plight is undefined, save for some quick flashbacks to her holding a knife, the exceptionally unpleasant manner in which her police officer assailant (David Lyons) is presented suggests this is more Sleeping with the Enemy than Black Widow. And despite knowing better and building up some generic ("I'm unavailable") defences, she, like Roberts' character in Enemy, starts waxing doe-eyed at Alex (Josh Duhamel), a widower and father of two overly precocious and nauseating kids. Why they have such an intense connection is unclear — their conversations are incidental and awkward, lacking any chemistry or suggestion of ideological similarities. But since they're both quite dull and unremarkable, written transparently as generically "nice" people with dark pasts that don't to affect them beyond their actions, their syrupy, superficial love is accepted as is: a transparent representation of generic Aryan breeding. Essentially, it's a flowery, melodramatic fantasy that can be projected onto anyone suffering from commercially purported ideations, wishing that they too were white supermodels living in an idyllic, highly romanticized locale, forced to fight for an ill-defined love. This rather patronizing and culturally problematic assertion would be more transparent if it weren't for Lasse Hallström's ability to gussy up the material with an accessible, surprisingly thoughtful composition, making the package so shiny, sentimental and pretty that the genuine lack of a beating heart at the center of it all can easily be missed. And though the dangerous presentation of love as a force greater than life is merely an impediment on the many folks that buy into it, unable to settle down or appreciate relationships for their less than cataclysmic reality, the fact is both Hough and Duhamel are terrible actors. A smarter actress might have played off her character's tendency to go for men old enough to be her father and a more nuanced actor might have understood the distinction between "love" and hormonal impulses and parental anxieties. When Hallström discusses his loose approach to capturing reality — allowing most romantic scenes to be ad-libbed — in the "Igniting the Romance" supplement on the Blu-Ray, it's clear that the reason Safe Haven is such a hollow shell of a movie is the genuine lack of talent on the part of both models. Had superficial looks been less important than chemistry and acting ability, this bit of saccharine nonsense could have worked as a guilty pleasure. (eOne)