September 30, 2004

First Daughter

Print More

But all I want is to be a normal girl! That”s right, it”s that time of month again, when the rich/ popular/ famous female pity train comes to town. But don”t worry, this is an all-inclusive affair that will leave no rich/ popular/ famous girl behind. Doesn”t Hollywood realize that stuffing the girl-in-extraordinary-circumstances-wanting-to-be-normal routine down our throats on a monthly basis will only result in widespread feelings of resentment? Apparently not, because such is the exact premise of Chasing Liberty … err … I mean First Daughter.

How does this flavor of the month work the routine? Strictly by the book, I”d say. First Daughter Samantha Mackenzie (Katie Holmes) goes off to college on the west coast with every connotation that her title brings. While there, she struggles with her cumbersome security detail, a headstrong roommate, and a potential romance with her R.A. It doesn”t help matters that Sam”s first year of college happens to be an election year and that every move she makes comes with consequences of the political variety. Can Sam ever be the real girl behind her public image?

In my idealistic view of the world, I”d like to think that movies are made with a purpose in mind, even if that purpose is merely ‘to entertain.’ How a movie like First Daughter can fulfill any part of such an elementary requirement is a mystery that will haunt you throughout its entire duration. I feel no sympathy for one-dimensional Sam, nor do I feel regret for her ambiguously unhappy fate. Yes, true love doesn”t pan out so well for Samantha, and yes, I did just reveal the ending, but if me ruining the ending of First Daughter ranks as a disappointment for you, then you definitely deserve it.

Even if you are a fan of the formulaic, there is something oddly uncomfortable and awkward about First Daughter that prevents it from being enjoyable in any way. A watered-down tale of self-discovery, the film unfolds like a conservative fairytale starring Sam, poster child for the boring side of Gap. First Daughter lacks coherence and fluidity, degenerating into a facsimile of Chasing Liberty (also about a First Daughter”s struggle with being normal) with Holmes becoming a less edgy version of Mandy Moore, which is saying a lot if you think about exactly how ‘edgy’ Moore is.

The world of First Daughter is one of happy coincidence. Take, for example, the conveniently calculated cast. There is Sam”s R.A., James Lansome (Marc Blucas). Yes, his name rhymes with handsome; as if his role as the resident prince charming wasn”t alluded to enough already by being the only non-female that Sam meets. There is also Sam”s father, President Mackenzie (Michael Keaton) who appeared to be thusly named only so that writers could use ‘Bring Back Mac!’ as a viable campaign slogan.

Slow and boring at best, First Daughter possesses no redeeming quality. Holmes attempts some charm with disconcerting facial contortions under the guise of acting but in the end nothing can help the fact that bland Sam”s whining first daughter routine comes one movie too late.

Archived article by Tracy Zhang
Red Letter DAZE Movie Editor