When Hollywood Ran Out of Tissues: Nicholas Sparks and the Decline of the Romance Film
It’s not my favorite genre, but I have no issues with romance films. They can be extremely corny, yet occasionally, there’s an effort to bring legitimate gravitas to the material. Between the tropey romantic comedies and depressing romantic dramas, their appeal is undeniable.
It’s odd that these kinds of films aren’t really being mass-produced towards theatrical releases anymore. Most of them have retreated to the confines of streaming services like Netflix. Perhaps, there is primarily one man in the center of this genre slump and his name is Nicholas Sparks.
Admittedly, I haven’t read many of Sparks’ novels and will be squarely focusing on their film adaptations. Like all popular authors, sometimes his adaptations can get swallowed up in their own cliches. Characters stricken with sickness and devoted to their Christian faith are abundant in them, naturally drawing from Sparks’ background with both topics. A Walk to Remember is a prime instance of both recurrences being prominently used and was my first experience with Sparks’ work.
A Walk to Remember is a 1999 romance novel by Sparks about the tragic love story between a popular guy named Landon Carter and a shy, religious girl named Jamie Sullivan in ‘50s North Carolina. The film adaptation would be released in 2002 to a decent box office gross and poor reviews. Giving background on my history with the source material for this bland film, I read it back in middle school and I still feel it was alright, albeit corny in some passages.
Many questionable creative decisions were clearly the result of making the film more modern (updating the ’50s to the ‘90s, use of computers to start drama, lots of ‘00s-era rock songs, etc.). So many changes made gives the impression the studio didn’t think the film could be successful entirely on the source material’s merits. It’s a shame since the novel has some genuinely strong moments. The film’s needless dumbing down of the source material arguably started the downturn that affects romance films to this day.