A few months ago, I pitched an idea to my editor wherein I would watch every Nicholas Sparks movie in one weekend and write about how the experience changed me, in honor of Valentine's Day. Thanks to a little film called Fifty Shades of Grey, about which I wrote 2,471 posts (estimated), that did not happen, but when we realized that a new Nicholas Sparks movie called The Longest Ride was premiering, we decided now was as good a time as any for me to undertake this feat.
Ground rules I set for myself: (1) I would not watch The Notebook because I've seen it too many times, most recently less than a year ago, and this is a job, not a torture session. (2) I was allowed to pause the Sparksathon and leave my home if necessary, but I tried not to make any big, day-long plans. Here is my story. Spoilers ahead!
9:41 a.m. The Sparksathon begins. I start with The Last Song starring Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, thinking it will be the most exciting of the bunch. I am wrong.
9:46 a.m. I wonder if this is a documentary about Miley and Liam's actual relationship. I also wonder if I will ever again experience weather as warm as the weather in Georgia in this movie. (Now is a good time to note that I will only be referring to characters by the names of the actors playing them, because I can't remember any of their names except for Channing Tatum in Dear John, and that's only because his was in the title.)
9:48 a.m. Miley's dad Greg Kinnear makes stained glass for a living. My notes read simply, "I can't." In Sparksland, it's totally normal for you to have a low-paying job or no job at all, and yet still be able to afford a gorgeous beach home in a coastal city. This is the first of many lessons I will learn in Sparksland.
10:02 a.m. I become distracted by the strange fact that Miley's dad has the phone number for the aquarium taped up on the wall by the phone. Why would he possibly need the aquarium's phone number in a hurry? Does he have a lot of sea turtle egg emergencies? I decide that Greg is a mystery and cannot be trusted.
10:14 a.m. The first of several times that my boyfriend walks through the room just to yell, "Mike Will Made It."
10:30 a.m. Pause for shower and excursion to the outdoor food market. True, I've only made it 40 minutes into this thing, but it's boring and I'm hungry.
1:00 p.m. I return to my hole.
1:17 p.m. WEDDING FIGHT! Finally, The Last Song has given me something to care about: Hot teens punching each other.
1:56 p.m. The movie is over. I didn't come even a little bit close to crying, either because I watched this movie in two halves and interrupted the ~*fLow*~ or because I am a soulless monster. Probably the second one, but as I said, something was super-off about Miley's dad and his weird aquarium fetish. It occurs to me that I should start keeping a body count since I'm pretty sure at least one person is going to die in every single one of these movies.
Cumulative body count: 1. This tally does not include people who died prior to the events of the films, because then we'd have to get into questions of whether or not "left the family and is out of the picture" counts as dead in a Nicholas Sparks movie (it does).
2:04 p.m. I decide to do A Walk to Remember next even though I've already seen it, because the cable guy is coming soon and I don't want to be interrupted in the middle of the emotional journey that I deeply hope Dear John will take me on. This is the one movie for which I've read the source material too, because in eighth grade, my best friend Eliza Y. — a real person, I swear — told me it was wonderful. I don't recall liking it very much, because even then, the only romance I cared about was the kind that took place in a dystopian hellscape.
2:08 p.m. Mandy Moore sings for the first time. Shane West and I both cannot handle it because Mandy is a literal angel sent to earth so that we undeserving humans may enjoy a tiny bit of peace in our horrible lifetimes.
2:20 p.m. The cable guy arrives and unplugs the Internet, which makes the Apple TV stop working. I'm ashamed to tell him why I need him to hurry up so I read a magazine and pretend like everything is totally chill and he did not just interrupt a very important work project.
3:50 p.m. The cable guy leaves. This must be the first time in history that anyone has ever been happy about Time Warner taking an hour and a half to fulfill a service request.
5:14 p.m. Mandy Moore is dead. I still have not cried. What in god's name is wrong with me? After a short break to listen to the new Beyoncé song, I put my computer away so that I am distraction-free for Dear John. I want to shed some motherfucking tears!
Cumulative body count: 2
7:07 p.m. VICTORY IS MINE. I cried at least twice during Dear John. I'm talking real, liquid tears that ran down my face for several minutes. It was glorious. I have a heart! It's in there and it's beating and it does not like it when Channing Tatum doesn't get his girl!
To be honest, I kind of liked this one, and not only because Channing sometimes appears shirtless. Though Channing and Amanda Seyfried didn't end up together because 9/11 happened and he had to reenlist in the Army, the movie did end on sort of a hopeful note with the pair reuniting in the future in a vaguely European locale. My heart wants to believe that they got their happy ending right after they hugged in greeting, but my head knows one of them probably died of cancer minutes later.
Cumulative body count: 4
1:00 a.m. I return home from a friend's birthday party. I think about starting Nights in Rodanthe, but the whiskey in me says that I should watch Jem instead, so I do.
11:16 a.m. Nights in Rodanthe. I've seen this one too, in college when my friend and I got bored one night and decided to get stoned and go to the movies. This was the only thing playing at the Poughkeepsie Galleria that late, so we said, "Why not?" I don't remember anything about it except that Diane Lane cried funny and it made me laugh so hard that the other theater patrons shushed me.
11:23 a.m. Viola Davis appears! I decide to only watch her scenes because my repeat viewing of A Walk to Remember taught me that these movies just do not hold up a second time.
11:35 a.m. My resolve to not watch this in full is slipping away in the face of Diane Lane's preternatural charm. Of course she listens to Ruth Brown and Dinah Washington while cooking! I want to be Diane Lane when I grow up. I make a note to watch Under the Tuscan Sun again when this is all over.
11:50 a.m. I am coming to terms with the fact that I have been lying to myself my whole life and my favorite genre of movie is actually "middle-age rich people finding love after great tragedy."
12:50 p.m. Reader, I watched the whole goddamn thing. Once again, I laughed uncontrollably when Diane let loose with her elephant sobs (see video below), but I did tear up quite a bit when her daughter had to take care of her after Richard Gere's untimely death by flooding.
Cumulative body count: 5
1:00 p.m. I have been curious about Safe Haven ever since I saw it on a list of Worst Movies of 2013. Of course it's not the greatest movie ever made, but what about this by-the-numbers romance could be so horrible that it wound up on a list of the categorical worst in a year that also gave us Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters? Just wait, people. Just wait.
3:00 p.m. GHOST WIFE. The answer is ghost wife. Early in the film, Julianne Hough befriends a "neighbor" played by Cobie Smulders. Julianne never sees where she lives and you never see anybody else talk to Cobie, but you don't really think much about it because minor characters come and go all the time. This is the way of things in Sparksland, where friends are just there to tell you not to get back together with your cheating ex-husband. But in this case, Cobie turns out to be the ghost of Josh Duhamel's dead wife and she's just hanging around to make sure Julianne is good enough for him. Totally normal!
Ghost wife aside, I fell for Safe Haven harder than Amanda fell for Channing when he ripped his shirt off and dove into the ocean for her fallen purse. Something about Josh Duhamel interacting with children just really does it for me, to the point that I once watched Life as We Know It twice on one plane ride because I loved watching him hold a baby so much.
Cumulative body count: 7. I'm including the ghost wife even though cancer killed her pre-movie, because I didn't know she was dead till Julianne realized she'd been talking to nobody this whole time.
Times handwritten letters served an important plot purpose: 3
3:15 p.m. My boyfriend comes home to find me crumpled on the couch still in my pajamas with a cold, half-eaten deli burger in front of me. I ask him to please make it all stop, but he says I have to at least watch one more because I already paid for it. He also says, "Keep the Sparks flying."
3:17 p.m. The Lucky One. I immediately hate this because it begins with a long, war-based introduction. I've already seen one Nicholas Sparks movie where terrorists break up a relationship and I'm not looking forward to seeing another.
3:22 p.m. Shit, I see mountains. What are you doing, Zac Efron! Go to the coast! You'll never find true love inland. Nicholas Sparks has proven it!
3:25 p.m. Oh thank god, he went to the coast. There's a lighthouse and everything. This is where life and love begins, Zac.
3:26 p.m. I realize too late that I should have been keeping a Spanish moss count, too. Assume we're six for six.
3:29 p.m. He walked from Colorado? To find this woman he's never met before? This is creepy as hell. Is this a horror movie? Because I did not sign up for that.
4:53 p.m. I'll be honest, I stopped watching this after they stopped showing montages of Zac Efron working at a dog kennel. I don't even know if someone died, so my body count is compromised. According to Google, there was a flood in this one too and Taylor Schilling's ex got sucked away.
Cumulative body count: 8
Flood count: 2
5:00 p.m. Having heard that The Best of Me contains a subplot about meth, I think it might be a good next step. But then I realize that I may or may not have brushed my teeth yet, so I get up to do that and end up showering, then end up reading a comic book, then one thing leads to another and it's 11 p.m. and I have not returned to Sparksland. I'm so sorry, The Best of Me and Message in a Bottle. I know not what ye may have taught me.
Total times cried: 3
Times I was disappointed to find out that Eric Roberts wasn't actually in A Walk to Remember: 1
References to nameless hurricanes: infinite
1. I will never experience the full range of human emotion unless I move to the beach.
2. I will never experience the full range of human emotion until a parent or partner of mine dies of cancer.
3. Josh Duhamel is my husband.
4. Outdoor barbecues are good places to fall in love.
5. Channing Tatum can make any movie good.
6. I don't own nearly enough breezy cotton clothing.
7. Friends are just there to tell you not to get back together with your cheating ex-husband.
8. Beware of floods.
You should also check out:
15 Casting Decisions That Could Have Altered Hollywood as We Know It (opens in new tab)
You're Not Going to Find Love With That Dating Checklist (opens in new tab)
How to Binge-Watch Like a Pro (opens in new tab)
I’m the senior entertainment editor at Cosmopolitan.com, which means my DVR is always 98 percent full. I love romance novels, bourbon, and canceling plans so I can watch Lost for the 50th time.
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