Movie Mom

Movie Mom

The Last Song

posted by Nell Minow
Lowest Recommended Age:Middle School
MPAA Rating:Rated PG for thematic material, some violence, sensuality and mild language
Profanity:Mild language ("screwed up," "jeez," etc.)
Alcohol/Drugs:Teen drinking
Violence/Scariness:Tense confrontations, some scuffles and punches, domestic abuse, sad death
Diversity Issues:None
Movie Release Date:March 31, 2010
DVD Release Date:August 17, 2010

Miley Cyrus shows us how her reach exceeds her grasp in “The Last Song,” an attempt to move past Hannah Montana. She has become Disney’s most valuable property through the force of her personality, comic timing, and way with a pop song. But pop princesses grow up, though usually not quite as quickly as they want to. And valuable properties are hard to turn down. So when one of the world’s biggest superstars-turned-brand wants to make a grown-up movie, she gets her way.

That is why “The Last Song” plays like a check-list of everything a 17-year old would like to make as an antidote to the perpetually sunny Hannah Montana rather than a movie that works. After the sugary Disney Channel hijinks, she gets to play something a tiny bit edgy, a sulky teenager with a pierced nose, sent to live with her estranged father for the summer. Nicholas Sparks, for the first time adapting one of his own books, supplies his brand of synthetic syrup — broken hearts must find love amidst devastating losses, preferably through some exchanges of mail, all of this near a body of water with a beach.

Cyrus plays Veronica (Ronnie), a recent high school graduate who is so angry at just about everything and everyone that she is refusing to go to Julliard in the fall even though she is so talented that they accepted despite her refusal to play the piano. They just knew how great she was and accepted her anyway. Her mother (Kelly Preston) drops her off with her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman in the film’s most natural performance) at their dad’s beach house. Jonah is thrilled to be there but Ronnie is still angry with their father (Greg Kinnear as Steve) for leaving them and refuses to have anything to do with him as she had refused to read his letters.

Ronnie meets a cute guy named Will (Liam Hemsworth) and they bond over protecting a nest of sea turtle eggs. A falling-in-love montage is quickly followed by a trying-on-clothes-in-the-vintage-shop montage, which at least has the advantage of giving us a break from the dialogue and plot developments. But before long, the screen is littered with complications as Will and Ronnie have to cope with divided loyalties and then with something much more serious.

It’s all pretty enough, and Sparks is an expert at manipulative melodrama. Cyrus has a likable, unforced screen presence but does not have the training or focus to make Ronnie real or show us any change more significant than the switch from black to pastels and the disappearance of the nose stud. The screenplay feels episodic and scattered, like a collection of discount greeting cards. And the movie feels like a very expensive screen test for a star who needs to learn that sitcom skills are not enough to make a movie drama work.

  • Tracy

    It’s funny that you mentioned A View From Saturday; that book was assigned reading for me in sixth grade and I remembered it as I read The Last Song a few months ago. I really liked the book and I hope the movie will at least be a decent adaptation (as opposed to Dear John, which was really ruined for me by the changed ending). I have a decent amount of faith in Miley Cyrus, even if I’m not expecting much of the acting or the screenplay.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks so much, Tracy! I am so happy you made the same connection I did. I love that book! Please let me know what you think of the movie. (I think “View from Saturday” would make a great movie!)

  • Lorrie B.

    Wow, I really feel after reading your review and then seeing the movie, that you have an obvious dislike/prejudice against Miley Cyrus. Normally I find your reviews and insights helpful. My daughter and I enjoyed the movie. I think Miley did a terrific job. I never even thought about Hannah Montana during the movie. Greg Kinnear was great. I would recommend it!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Lorrie — I am always happy to hear from someone who sees more in a movie than I do. I am a fan of Miley Cyrus, but as I said in the review, I think this movie calls on her to do more than she is trained for. And we do agree about Greg Kinnear. Thanks for your comment, which will be a big help to those who are trying to decide whether they should see the movie.

  • Keisha

    I loved this movie and think that it is the best movie ever. Even though I cried. I recommend everyone going to see this movie.

  • Wendy

    But is there an unnecessary and emotionally manipulative death? (Don’t answer if that would cross into spoiler territory.)

  • Nell Minow

    SPOILER ALERT for Wendy: Yup.

  • Ashley

    I first off want to say that I completely respect your opinion. But I really enjoyed the film, so much that I saw it two days in a row. I agree with Lori, I didn’t think of Hannah Montana at all while watching the movie. Sure her acting skills aren’t top notch, but seeing as she’s been playing the role of Hannah Montana for years she’s mastered that role, so it wasn’t a challenge for her to play that character in the Hannah Montana movie. She has to get experience playing a different character somehow and at some point, so I think this film was a really good chance for her. I think the more movie’s she makes where she’s playing a character other than Hannah Montana the better her acting skills will get. But overall I think for this being her first non-Hannah movie she did a great job. I do agree Greg Kinnear did a great job. So did the guy who played the little brother.

  • Nell Minow

    Ashley, this is my favorite kind of comment — a thoughtful, well-reasoned, beautifully expressed response that makes me want to take another look at the film. Thanks so much!

  • Tracy

    I saw the movie yesterday and really enjoyed it, but it could have been so much better. Since Sparks wrote the screenplay first and then the book, the screenplay came off as a very muddled mess of ideas that was smoothed out and conveyed MUCH better in the novel. I didn’t enjoy Miley’s acting at first; in the first few scenes, her snark came off as overdone and unbelievable (for example, after Will spills the milkshake on her). I agree with Ashley, though; for this being her first serious movie role, she did very well.
    I don’t think the movie would have worked without Greg Kinnear; he was perfect for the role. Bobby Coleman also did a wonderful job at handling one of the most emotional scenes for me; he’s an excellent child actor. If you click on my name, I’m leaving a link to a fuller version of my thoughts on the movie and how I felt it could have been better done.

  • Nell Minow

    An astute assessment and very well stated, Tracy! Many thanks, and keep letting us know what you think about the movies you see.

  • Apple

    I can’t stand Miley Cyrus in the first place, and then to make me hate her even more she has to go ruin the movie to my favorite book! Miley Cyrus is one of the worst actresses. She also has the worst singing voice, it sounds nasally and annoying. She also looks horrible in the movie too.

  • Darcy

    If you have ever watched a miley cyrus interveiw or read one, you relize that the Real miley cyrus is actually alot like the character Ronnie and nothing like hannah montana. Ronnie and miley are almost exactly alike when potraid by emotions and opinions. I think people just hate on disney because its “disney” and they dont respect the actor, they just hate on miley, they never really give her chance

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