Going to the Movies – “Safe Haven”

Photo by PoPville flickr user ep_jhu

Going to the Movies is written by Mount Vernon Triangle resident Catherine Taegel.

Last night I saw “Safe Haven” starring Julianne Hough as Katie and Josh Duhamel as Alex. The movie is based on a Nicholas Sparks novel. Therefore, the audience knows there are certain guaranteed elements – a scenic coastal landscape as the backdrop and torrid pasts that draw the starring characters together. With the starring actors being better known for their significant others than their own careers (Hough is dating Ryan Seacrest and Duhamel is married to Fergie), movie magic wasn’t something I was anticipating. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This Nicholas Sparks adaptation is more suspense-oriented with the dramatic aspects taking a supporting role.

The opening scenes of the film kick the movie off with high intensity and get your adrenaline pumping. Within minutes Katie (Hough) changes her look and is on the run. She ends up in a small town, far away from where she began, and feels safe enough to make herself at home. She ends up meeting Alex (Duhamel) and gets pulled into his world – two small kids and all. Katie is an innocent but guarded character, and Hough unexpectedly plays it well. She’s surprisingly genuine and, even though she’s not always polished, amiably plays the part. Duhamel is clearly comfortable as the nice guy and isn’t digging deep to play the role. He’s very enjoyable and has a nice chemistry with Hough on screen.

Continues after the jump.

It’s unclear what exactly happened in that initial opening scene and as the film plays out and the characters develop we see bits and pieces. The parallel story of “What is Katie running from?” plays out right alongside the development of her new life as she settles into coastal North Carolina. In this parallel story, a Boston detective (played by David Lyons) is searching for Katie. As the detective becomes hell bent on finding Katie the audience realizes there is more going on than what meets the eye. His aggression, determination, and intensity builds and uneasily pushes the film forward.

I never particularly enjoy when people feel the need to clap at the end of a film, but I do enjoy when the audience collectively gets caught up in the film (during the film). There were several synchronized gasps and the energy in the room was palpable. The suspense and anxiety was methodically built throughout the film. It never seemed slow and the characters developed nicely. My only real issue with the film is that the entire premise is essentially built on the issue of domestic violence. However, the film really never delves into and addresses the issue. Katie does talk to it a bit and we see, without long-winded speeches, some of the effects that domestic violence can have on individuals and their relationships. The film didn’t manipulate or mock the issue by any means, but I wasn’t wholly satisfied.

I’ll readily admit I haven’t read one of Nicholas Sparks’ books and there are a few surprises in the film I didn’t see coming. However, I have seen a few of his movies and know he loves putting in twists that may cause you to scratch your head, as in 2008’s “Nights in Rodanthe,” or cause you to cry buckets, as in 2004’s “The Notebook.” No Nicholas Sparks movie adaptation will ever quite top “The Notebook.” It was too well acted and it’s such a great story. However, this is a good date night movie that has enough romance and suspense to keep you engaged.

“Safe Haven” opens in theaters on February 14, 2013.

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