Pop star Mandy Moore plays a teenager in this movie based on two popular books by Sarah Dessen.
The books’ fans — and Moore’s — will enjoy the movie, which puts its heroine through the full obstacle course of adolescence, including coping with her parents’ divorce and subsequent romances, the ups and downs of her sister’s wedding plans, the death of a classmate, a pregnant best friend, and a romance of her own.
But those not already committed to the star or the books will find the movie hard going, because director Claire Kilner and screenwriter Neena Beeber demonstrate stunning ineptitude in translating written material to the screen. The story, the characters, and the relationships seem to go in completely different directions from scene to scene. Without knowing what’s in the books, it is not episodic; it is incoherent. And the dialogue is just painful. Deal me out.
Moore plays Halley (named for the comet), hurt and angry because her radio-host father has left her mother for a younger woman. She thinks her sister’s new engagement to a straight-laced young man as the divorce becomes final and her father announces (on his radio show) his own marriage plans is insensitive. When her best friend’s boyfriend dies very suddenly, it seems to Halley that love can never work out well. So she tries to ignore her feelings for Macon (Trent Ford), a guy whose primary appeal seems to be the fact that most of his face is hidden by his bangs.
Moore is appealing and she showed some screen presence in “The Princess Diaries” and “A Walk to Remember”. But in this movie she only shows two different facial expressions, and one looks like she has just sucked on a lemon.
Alison Janney (Halley’s mother) and Dylan Baker (her new love interest) do their best not to appear to be slumming, even when Baker is called on to wear a Civil War Uniform while stocking a vending machine. But the movie keeps tripping itself up on idiotic developments that are supposed to be comic, like Halley’s pot-smoking grandmother (played by 1940’s movie star Nina Foch) and the stuffy family of the sister’s fiance, and idiotic developments that are supposed to be touching (like a car accident). And it also has the worst costume design of any movie in decades.
Parents should know that the movie has some strong language, and teen smoking and drinking. The grandmother’s use of marijuana is portrayed as humorous. Halley’s friend and her boyfriend have sex and she becomes pregnant. Halley begins to have sex with her boyfriend, but then stops because she says she does not want to care too much about him. Halley’s sister comes home drunk from a bachelorette party with a male stripper’s underwear around her neck.
Families who see this movie should talk about how it can be hard to take emotional risks — but harder not to.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “A Walk to Remember”.