Okay, disclaimer time: we actually didn’t see The Lucky One at the cinemas. We saw the trailer and the poster and prejudged it to be another Nicolas Sparks film about love in a time of tragedy. And for the most part, we were right: it descends into cliché more than just once and is obviously made for someone outside our 24-40 Male demographic. But there was one thing in particular that we found ourselves enjoying: Zac Efron. Since his High School Musical days, he’s actually turned into a very likeable leading man despite his lack of high profile work. He was very strong in 2009’s ‘Me and Orson Welles’ but apart from that, it’s been mostly quiet on the Efron front for the past few years.
The terrible tragedy of Zac Efron (if you can call it that) is that his features are way too feminine to play most adult leads. Leonardo DiCaprio had the same problem for a long time: you can never really buy him as a grizzled cop, an alcoholic doctor or a cowboy. With that face? C’mon!
In The Lucky One, Efron plays a Sergeant in the US Marines who spots a girl’s photo in the rubble while on patrol in Iraq. When he goes to pick it up, a mortar attack destroys the spot where he was sat but moments ago. Realising that he would be dead were it not for this girl, he dubs her his guardian angel and sets off to find her when he returns to America.
As it turns out, this girl is a single mother who runs a kennel in Louisiana. He tracks her down and ends up working for her and keeping the whole photo story a secret from her.
It’s a gentle romance and as we said, Efron’s pretty good in it. But we couldn’t help thinking how different this movie would’ve been if he had only picked up someone else’s photo. If this girl was someone more exciting, this would’ve been a totally different movie. If it was a picture of Lady Gaga, Efron could’ve gone back to America and fallen in love with a multi-platinum hit-maker; if it was a picture of an Astronaut, the movie would’ve seen Efron train at NASA for the opportunity to spend time with his beloved on the International Space Station! In either of these cases, this movie might have had a broader appeal. Let’s look at a few more ways in which The Lucky One could’ve played differently:
One-Sentence Pitch: A screwy anti-Rom-Com starring Sandra Bullock!
Plot: Sgt. Logan Thibault returns to America after being saved by a picture of eccentric crossword puzzle constructor Mary Horowitz (Sandra Bullock). After tracking her down in Northern California, Logan recounts his story to her. Mary takes this to be a sign and quickly becomes obsessed with Logan. When Logan is redeployed to Afghanistan, Mary sneaks onto a flight to Helmand province posing as a journalist. Once there, she surprises Logan who now has to execute his responsibilities while trying to ensure that Mary’s insane antics do not get her killed by insurgents. At the end of the second act, she is abducted by members of Al-Qaeda, who she promptly charms with her quirky manner.
One-Sentence Pitch: A tragic cross-generational sequel to Casablanca.
Plot: Sgt. Logan Thibault returns to America after being saved by an old black and white photo of a woman. He discovers with the internet that she is the 100 year-old widow of a Czech resistance leader from the Second World War and her name is Ilsa Laszlo (played by Ingrid Bergman’s daughter Isabella Rossellini in heavy aging make-up). He tracks her down in a remote mansion in Vermont where she recounts her life after she fled Casablanca in 1941. She tells him of her enduring regret: that she left the only true love of her life, that she subsequently led a prominent but emotionally meaningless life.
We discover that Logan and Ilsa have so much in common: for in fact, he also left his girlfriend in order to join the Marine Corps, placing duty before matters of the heart. At the end, we realise that Logan and Ilsa would have been perfect together were it not for the fact that they were born almost 80 years apart. We don’t want to spoil anything, but let’s say that the final act will have everyone in tears.
One-Sentence Pitch: It’s Taxi Driver with a small dash of Pretty in Pink
Plot: Sgt. Logan Thibault returns to America after being saved by a picture of a woman in a blonde wig. He discovers that she is in fact Vivian Ward, a sex worker with a heart of gold. Just as he was saved by her photo, Logan is determined to ‘save her’ from her life of prostitution. She rebuffs his advances, in some part due to her embarrassment at being a hooker but Logan takes this to be a cry for help. Consumed by his obsession with Vivian as he struggles to adjust to civilian life in Los Angeles, Logan arms himself with machine guns and systematically kills every pimp he sees.
One Sentence Pitch: A Romantic Adventure with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles and yes, also a little kissing.
Plot: The Dread Sergeant Logan returns to America after being saved by a picture of a woman. She is in fact Buttercup, his long lost love. Years before, he left home to make his fortune as a soldier so that he could give his beloved the life she deserved. News filtered home that he had been killed in action, when in fact he had been taken under the wing of the previous Dread Sergeant Logan. In his absence, Buttercup has been betrothed to a wicked Senator (played by some British-sounding actor, no doubt). This is news that Logan is only made aware of through the photo – which as it turns out, is from a newspaper clipping.