No recent romantic film can come close to trumping The Notebook in tickets sold or tissues soiled. Just ask the dude I went to high school with whose girlfriend told everyone how much he cried in the movie theater. But ol’ Nick Sparks and Co. are at it again with this year’s super “aww”-inducing date flick, Safe Haven.
Josh Duhamel and Julianne Hough, aka Fergie’s husband and Ryan Seacrest’s girlfriend, pair up in many moments of “pretty people gazing and touching faces” and learn lessons about love, trust and conservation-starters for canoe rides while still always forgetting to bring an umbrella. Good thing running in the rain is super fun and makes people kiss!
Hough hangs up her dancing shoes for the first time in a film to play Katie, a girl who ends up in the small quaint town of Southport, North Carolina on a bus pit stop from Boston, clearly running from a dark past that only seagulls and grits can fix. In an aim to overcome her previous troubles and start a new life, she finds herself enamored enough with the Southern charm to slowly make the area her new home, and, eventually, falls for the delicious scoop of casserole that is Josh Duhamel‘s character, a widower named Alex. As her scary secrets eventually come to the forefront, Katie is faced with the choice of dealing with her traumatic history or moving forward into the muscular ‘ceps of Alex, her safe haven. Name plug! If you’re not already gushing, the setting itself is enough to make you want to drop everything and bury away into a small backwoods cabin that’s so quiet you can hear what the bugs are thinking.
This is the second Nicholas Sparks film for known Swedish “actor’s director” Lasse Hallstrom, who, to anyone interested, is responsible for a slew of ABBA music video perfection from the 70’s, but also for The Cider House Rules, Chocolat and 2010’s Dear John. Hallstrom is known for his heavily emotional films and is a favorite choice amongst Sparks as a director, as he “tends to draw fantastic performances from the cast,” states the novelist. There are also some adorable scenes with the two kids who play Alex’s young’ns in the film, a lot of which were improvised on set in order to keep their interactions with Hough’s character more grounded and real. Safe Haven even comes with a hefty dose of unexpected action and suspense, considering Sparks’ traditional work, making it an easier pitch to your date-mate come its Valentine’s Day release. Scenes featuring Hough in physical fights were actually done sans stuntwoman, per the dancer’s request and much to the stress of the crew, so she could still have that sassy choreographed feeling of a Footloose sequence. Not to mention it automatically makes you an all-around bad-a. Snaps, girl.
In preparation for his role, Duhamel spent two weeks in the real town of Southport to absorb the world of his character and the Southern lifestyle. “By the time we started shooting, I really felt like I was that dude,” said Duhamel, as his face grew another handsome chisel.
The characters of Katie and Alex are not only grounded and dynamic, but easily relatable in their strive for love, happiness, and security, like most of Sparks’ literary subjects and reader-base. What female audiences will hopefully appreciate about this film in particular, is our heroine’s ability to face her past without the aid of her new male love interest. Alex makes her feel safe, but is not the one saving her. She, when presented with the very thing that she is running from, is fully capable of rescuing herself and moving on to build the new life she helped create with him. Both of our heroes are extremely vulnerable, but neither struggle outweighs the other. The two are equals who come together and stabilize one another.
Hough describes Katie’s message as “being secure with who you are and moving forward.” The film’s biggest messages besides lovin’ and canoodlin’ and all that good stuff are definitely of sacrifice, facing fears, trust, personal transformation, and, most importantly, how to spearfish. Also, Cobie Smulders plays Jo, Katie’s gal pal neighbor, and she dons some serious jean-jacket-over-sundress action.
Safe Haven hits theaters today! Watch the trailer here.
Main photo courtesy of Relativity Media.