April 8, 2010

Lady Can’t Sing the Blues

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Miley Cyrus makes her non-Hannah Montana film debut in The Last Song, written by Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook, Dear John) alongside the Miley-team as a vehicle for Cyrus to star in and establish herself a dramatic actress. While Sparks’ movies may not be of the highest regard in Hollywood, they generally resonate with the chic-flick crowd and are successful in theatres. Unfortunately, The Last Song may fall shy of the traditional Sparks success. The Last Song is the story of Veronica “Ronnie” Miller (Cyrus) an angsty teen who rebels when her parents divorce — most notably rejecting the piano, which symbolizes her relationship with her father and the instrument of her professional success. She is sent to North Carolina with her younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) to spend a summer with her father, Steve (Greg Kinnear). The audience learns that Ronnie is a former shoplifter, failed her SATs and has a lot of friends with piercings. To make matters worse, Cyrus’ values — most notably overwhelming innocence — are reinforced in the film, such as chastity and a denouncement of alcohol. One would think that a character like Ronnie would have no moral high ground. Ronnie spends her first day in North Carolina at a carnival/ volleyball tournament where she gets knocked over by Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth). Will is cocky, but polite, as he apologizes for spilling a strawberry shake all over Ronnie. Whether Cyrus is horrendous at sarcasm or her character Ronnie has an insta-crush on Will and cannot be her biting self. Either way it comes off awkward. Will seems to fall instantly for Ronnie — although without the narration of the book, it is unclear why he feels this way. He persistently pursues her and the two quickly fall into a PG-rated love and Ronnie seems to melt away some of her icy persona. The best scene of the movie is the love montage because it is something Cyrus can do well — hang out with her now-boyfriend Hemsworth and do goofy things not unlike the Hannah Montana character. Throughout the film, Ronnie does these unexpectedly nice things for people that you wouldn’t expect at all, or don’t really fit in with the character she is supposed to be playing. For example, when she fights with her father, she repeatedly says “dad” at the end of the sentence, almost so much so that it seems like a very unrealistic fight. Cyrus struggles to put a spin on the word to give it that bitter sarcasm that most teens can relate to. Being in North Carolina seems to help Ronnie come back to the girl she may once have been. There are only moments where this transformation is a little too saccharine and preachy. One particular scene where Ronnie just happens to stumble upon a piano at Will’s grandiose house is just too convenient to be at all believable. Unsurprisingly, this scene marks the shift in Ronnie’s softening — her remembering her talent and love for music. While there are some aspects of the story that Sparks does a far better job of communicating in the novel version, the plotline is decent — though formulaic, like all of his stories. The biggest problems in the film come from casting, although the Miller family, except Ronnie, is cast fine. But, Hemsworth was at times unconvincing in his role as a wealthy Southern boy dealing with a lot on his plate, and simply put, Cyrus had no business trying to break into dramatic acting just yet. Despite Cyrus’ shortcomings and Hemsworth’s relying a little too much on his good looks, the movie isn’t awful. The story is heartwarming (albeit slightly cheesy) and demonstrates the difficult time in a teenager’s life when they deal with difficult relationships with their parents, rebellion and falling in love. But to enjoy the film, overlooking Cyrus’ lack of dramatic acting skills is a necessity. Her shining moment comes at the end of the film, when her song “When I Look At You” is played and some of her true talent comes through.

2 Towers

Original Author: Cara Sprunk