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The Last Song’ Should be Miley’s Last Movie

Caitlin Ferraro | Thursday, April 8, 2010

It is always difficult to see a good book poorly adapted into a film. Director Julie Ann Robinson made a valiant effort with Nicholas Sparks’ “The Last Song,” but the cast, led by Miley Cyrus, was not able to successfully pull off this adaptation. Disney’s queen bee tried to step out of her comfort zone by playing a serious character, but Cyrus simply doesn’t cut it.

Ronnie (Cyrus) and her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are sent to Georgia for the summer to live with their father. She is a rebellious teenager who resents her father (Greg Kinnear), for her parents’ divorce. She expresses this anger by sporting some punk-rock chic outfits, refusing to go to college, shoplifting and making surly faces.
While her father desperately fights to regain her love and trust, he also tries to reignite her passion for playing the piano. Music was the thing that connected the two when she was younger, and Ronnie was something of a child prodigy. However, what ultimately pulls Ronnie out of her shell is clean-cut volleyball player Will (Liam Hemsworth) who sees something in the angry teen. The two quickly fall in love. In fact, it’s a bit too quickly — but that’s what cheesy montages are for.

Will can see what Ronnie’s father sees — that Ronnie really has a heart of gold. She is a protective big sister and befriends a girl in town who needs help. Furthermore, she appoints herself savior of sea turtle eggs threatened by evil raccoons on the beach. Thus, Ronnie’s character does have depth.

Cyrus gave it her best shot, but she is simply lackluster. While she does have the star power to draw attention to the film, she just doesn’t have the talent to be headlining a drama. The film is an emotional one that tackles huge issues including first love, a secret crime, illness and death. Cyrus is not convincing amidst all of the melodrama and should stick to the slapstick comedy of “Hannah Montana.”

Hemsworth’s portrayal of the pretty boy who has a sad secret is decent. He has some especially cute moments with little brother Jonah. But his character is not developed enough to show whether or not the Australian newcomer has a future in acting. His more immediate future consists of him as Cyrus’ arm candy and new boyfriend in real life. Inevitably, some of that chemistry translates onto the screen and the couple is relatively believable as two teenagers in love.

A young actor who does excel is Coleman as the adorable, precocious younger brother who can’t wait to spend the summer with his father. You might recognize him from “Martian Child” or “Post Grad.” He succeeds where Cyrus fails at expressing true grief. Coleman brought the best out in the other actors especially in heart wrenching scenes with Hemsworth and Kinnear.

As basically the only adult in the film Kinnear does alright. He has proven himself to be a fantastic actor (“Little Miss Sunshine”) but this film is not one to showcase his abilities. He does an average job with average material.

It’s true the film’s failure is not completely Cyrus’ fault. The storyline itself has problems. For one, there are too many plot points for such a short film, a common problem in adapting a book to the big screen. A church fire sets the backdrop of the entire film, but a sudden illness out of nowhere causes the last third of the film to feel like a completely new story. Unfortunately, not even beautiful shots of the Georgia coastline can salvage the poor screenplay.

In the end, “The Last Song” does an okay job at exploring first love and the tenuous relationship between a father and his daughter. No, this film won’t be Miley’s swan song — she is after all a huge star — but it should make her consider taking back that comment about retiring from music soon, or at least get acting lessons.
Enter the theater with caution because for all its faults, “The Last Song” is still a tearjerker and enjoyable chick flick.

Directed By: Julie Ann Robinson
Writer: Nicholas Sparks, Jeff Van Wie
Starring: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Liam Hemsworth, Bobby Coleman

Contact Caitlin Ferraro at cferrar1@nd.edu