Written by: Rob Van Winkle, CC2K Staff Writer
CC2K Co-Founder Rob Van Winkle makes a triumphant return for April Fools Week. His assignment: Three titles from schmaltzmeister Nicholas Sparks.
There was a time in my life when I would have claimed that movies were merely sources of entertainment, and novelists were simply storytellers.
Those days are gone forever.
I’ve been a married man for over ten years now. I was present for the birth of both my children, and I have re-defined my life’s goals based on my unquenchable desire to give my wife and kids the best, happiest life I can possibly provide.
In other words, I thought I understood something about the concept of love. Like an asshole.
But this year for April Fools’ Week, I was challenged to consume Nicholas Sparks movies; as many as I could stomach. Something stirred in me as I watched the first one, and carried over as watched the second. In fact, just to be absolutely sure, I even watched a THIRD movie. By the time I was finished, that feeling had bloomed into a full-blown realization: I didn’t know ANYTHING about love…until NOW!
Through his vessels The Lucky One (20% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes), Safe Haven (12% approval rating), and The Best of Me (8%), Nicholas Sparks has granted me, as well as anyone else with a heart big enough to listen, with all of the lessons you really need to finally, and fully, understand the ins and outs (pun only slightly intended) of relationships, romance, and love.
Having me attempt to explain these epiphanies to you without your experiencing these masterpieces yourself would be akin to asking a psychiatrist to “break down this whole ‘brain’ thing,” but for the sake of nascent lovers everywhere, I will try:
- 1. Tulane Girls are Easy Women are ALL Precious Treasures from Heaven– Obviously, before you can experience TRUE love, you must find the right object for your affection. Luckily, we men can find such a vessel in each and every woman we will ever meet, as they are apparently flawless in every way (except for MAYBE allowing for slight misunderstandings to blossom from time to time!). Now if those numbers a a bit daunting and you want to narrow it down a bit, Sparks clearly suggests heading down New Orleans to find a college dropout. We meet two such perfect vessels of perfection in The Lucky One (“Flicks don’t come chickier than this.” – Christopher Tookey, Daily Mail) and The Best of Me (“The latest gaseous emission from the Sparks melodrama machine.” – Peter Howell, Toronto Star), both of whom were accepted or went to Tulane University, only to drop out upon getting pregnant.
It is clear that Sparks intends to show each of us that in this tricky world of love, everything is always the man’s fault. Which is pretty obvious, because…
- 2. Men are Complete Pieces of SHIT! – Of all the wisdom that Sparks wants to impart, nothing is clearer than this fact: at every stage of a man’s life, he a completely reprehensible douchebag. If he’s just your husband, then he might JUST be a womanizer like in The Lucky One (“I’m beginning to think writer Nicholas Sparks isn’t one person at all, but a roomful of ladies doing Harlequin-romance Mad Libs.” – Sara Stewart, New York Post), but odds are he’s also an abusive alcoholic like in Safe Haven (“I hate Safe Haven. It’s a terrible thing to do to your Valentine.” – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone), or an uncaring and ambivalent alcoholic like in The Best of Me (“The sugar content of this film is so horrendously high, it could be available on the NHS for hypoglycemia.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian). It’s bad enough being the wife of a lummox like this, but once those poor misguided angels are tricked into helping them spawn, they’re even worse. Fathers, it turns out, are nothing more than walking cocks who try to assert their will in what hobbies their young children pursue (tLO), or what to major in in college (tBoM). They’ll think nothing of trying to bribe their daughter’s boyfriend in going away (tBoM), or even beating their kids (tBoM), corrupting them to a life of crime (tBoM), or even eventually straight-up murdering them (once again, tBoM). Finally, if this already worthless sack of shit happens to work in law enforcement, then prepare yourself of a life of emotional blackmail (tLO) or physical abuse (SH), at least until they’re killed. (tLO AND SH)
Now at this point, if you’re a woman, you’re probably thinking: So now I know that I’m a precious treasure, and all men are horse’s asses. But I am (or have once been) IN a relationship with a man…does that mean I’ve fucked up? The answer to that question is an unequivocal yes. Yes you have. However, don’t despair, ladies. Every set of rules has exceptions, and this one is no exception. There is one foolproof way to have your happily ever after:
- 3. Always Fall for the Mysterious Loner – Obviously, nothing a man SAYS is of any worth whatsoever, so the surefire key to happiness is to fall for the one who never says anything! We see this throughout the movies: In The Lucky One (“There is not one real, natural, or genuine second in this movie.”– Austin Kennedy, Sin Magazine), the hero is a grizzled veteran who walks across the country to take a job mucking out dog kennels without ever mentioning his true intentions, and in The Best of Me (“A love story about as moving and genuine as a ballad crooned by a studio-manufactured boy band.” – Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic) our hero is a high-school loner turned literate oil rig worker who carries a torch for our heroine for over twenty years. Both of these men, quite obviously, are perfection personified.
But ladies, fear not; if the shifty drifter of your dreams hasn’t yet skulked into your life…this rule works both ways! You can BE the mysterious loner and enjoy the same results, as we learn in Safe Haven (“(The twist) is so incredibly baffling and profoundly stupid that it will make you want to punch the movie in the face.” – Matt Neal, The Standard), when our heroine flees a crime scene to a desolate country town, gives a fake name to live in isolation, and STILL finds perfect forever love within the first week of her stay.
This is all well and good as long as this is your FIRST romance. But if not, you just might fear you’ll have some emotional baggage to sort through, like lingering feelings for deceased former flames, inconvenient current marriages, or being relentlessly pursued by the authorities for crimes you may or may not have committed. Well good news: you won’t! Because:
- 4. Emotional Scars are for Pussies – If you’ve ever had a relationship sullied by complications, well then you just haven’t been in love with that person ENOUGH. If your feelings are as strong as Dawson and Amanda’s from The Best of Me (“A merely awful story of a summer fling engendering a twenty-year obsession morphs into a final minute “twist” that’s as stupid as it is hackneyed. Get ready to be glad when characters die.” – Rob van Winkle, CC2K), then you’ll be able to overcome a loveless (currently legally binding) marriage, the death of a child to cancer, and a mutually self-imposed separation due to a decades-old misunderstanding. If your love is as pure as Katie and Alex from Safe Haven (“The only movie I’ve ever seen that interrupts your thoughts about the wanton disregard for children’s feelings by making you shout ‘Wait…now there are fucking GHOSTS?’” – Rob van Winkle, CC2K), then you’ll easily get over repeated physical and emotional abuse, mutually attempted murder, the tragic death of a spouse, any emotional baggage your children might have over said tragic death, and the unsettling realization that you might, in fact, be Haley Joel Osment. And if your devotion is as powerful as Logan and Beth from The Lucky One (“Two pretty people want to fuck with absolutely no obstacles in their way. Will they have the thirty-second conversation that clears everything up? Of course not. Will they screw anyway? As surely as the metaphorical treehouse that drops down on an inconvenient romantic rival.” – Rob van Winkle, CC2K), then you will conquer PTSD, the emotional blackmail of a smarmy ex, a young boy’s trauma at witnessing (and sort-of causing) the death of his father, and the entire foundation of your relationship being born from a (stupid) lie of omission.
Now even after all this, you might STILL have some reservations about giving yourself completely over to this clearly perfect situation. If so, remember:
- 5. ALWAYS Listen to Your Elders (ESPECIALLY about Who to Bone) – Old people have really LIVED, Goddamn it, and as such, they ALWAYS know best, and never more so than when telling us who we should take to pound town. Whether you’re watching The Haven of Luck, The Best Safe, or The One of Me, you’ll find wise grandmothers hiring men who initially skeeve you out and push you into bed with him, wise old police officers who escort you to a house in the woods so you can do the deed (while your kids are home without a babysitter), or an old widower who leaves you both his house when he dies because he thinks you both could benefit from a romp in the roses. Ignore their advice at your own peril.
Now believe me when I tell you that even though I COMPLETELY believe in the exhaustiveness of this list, and how adhering to it is the one true path to everlasting capital-L Love, I can already hear the naysayers out there. These are the jaded fucknuts out there who will say things like “having the same plot devices show up in movie after movie is nothing more than a mark of lazy writing,” “instrumental music and ‘out-of-left-field’ plot deviances are not the same thing as character development and storytelling,” and “how are these cinematic atrocities anything other than emotional porn, designed to cause certain people to spurt out a slight different bodily fluid out of a slightly different orifice?” If they were REALLY unkind, they might point out that the undisputed master of love himself has apparently filed for divorce, or quote Eugene Novikov from Film Blather when he wrote “Nicholas Sparks destroys everything.”
People like this are simply and sadly beyond hope. But not me. Not anymore. If I truly love my wife and kids and want what’s best for them, my path is clear. I have already begun divorce proceedings, and I’ve placed an ad on Craigslist on my (soon-to-be-ex-) wife’s behalf, seeking a male nanny, and making it clear that references will NOT be checked. So my family’s future happiness is now assured.
As for me, I’ve bought an eye patch, rented a bike, and I’m on my way to New Orleans. It’s just about perfect “sun dappling through sycamore branches” time of year, and there’s a kegger at Chi Omega on Saturday Night. I’m gonna go knock me up a co-ed…for LOVE.