The Last Song
Increasingly Disney has diversified even further into the musical arena with its young television stars, perhaps chief amongst them being Miley Cyrus (who has rather puzzlingly managed to sell 15 million records along with a great deal of merchandise). With ‘The Last Song’, Cyrus tries to separate herself from the childhood persona and illustrate a deeper side of herself; how she came to believe it would do anything close to that leaves me baffled.
Veronica “Ronnie” MIller (Cyrus) and her younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are sent by their mother to stay with their father (Greg Kinnear) in rural Georgia for the summer as they go through a tumultuous divorce. Once a piano prodigy, Ronnie’s grades and attitude have been lacking off late, despite gaining early acceptance to Juilliard. Despite her defensiveness, she slowly begins to embrace her father, music and a tentative relationship with Will (Liam Hemsworth).
The problem with the supposed depth of Ronnie and the story as a whole, is that quite blatantly, it being a Miley Cyrus vehicle they’re so terrified of going into any real depth or breaking new territory, from the beginning we are shown how nice she really is. Thus the problem being she is not a believable protagonist from the start. Narrative is hurtled from being so saccharine it’s possible I’m now a diabetic, to needlessly bleak and devoid of anything remotely interesting. Plot lines are dragged out and then either ignored or resolved without any fanfare, unsure of how to cope with anything of even minor substance.
Nicholas Sparks wrote this specifically for the screen with the book following soon after, yet even with all his usual trademarks, the general lightness of being is crippling to a man who has made his fortune out of books about love that trade in clichés but also have a mortality rate similar to a weekend stay with the Manson family. It’s obvious he has little interest or understanding of how to write a movie so light in tone, as a result, the movie is clung together with standard, trite set pieces about young love and lacklustre teenage angst. Once upon a time, a girl called Jessie Spano became erratic after a caffeine pill addiction; “I’m so excited! I’m so scared!”, she cried. It also appears she penned a movie in said state.
Even the world they inhabit is almost an alternative universe: a Southern small town America where no one has an accent, a beaten up beach house looks like an ad for Crate & Barrel: and wearing Doc Martens (post Nirvana) and listening to One Republic equates to emotional depth. Spark’s complete lack of understanding for youth and people in general is never far from the surface.
The chemistry is almost nil despite Hemsworth’s best efforts, Cyrus’s acting ability stretched too thin on simply looking present and awake. Whereas her co-star may at least have a degree of presence to save his performance, Cyrus has none, apparently unable to convert a successful music career and life on-stage into even the smallest amount of charm. However you can’t expect much when her supposed playing of the piano is cut in such a manner as to give the impression that it is not her playing more than the simplest of chords.
Kinnear as Ronnie’s father is only outdone in irritancy by Blaze (Carly Chaikin), a girl incapable of feeling an emotion without expressing it immediately in the most trite of ways, constantly being reintroduced into the story for no apparent reason other than to cause or attract some degree of drama to herself. The only thing worse about her character, is that combined with her constant inclusion and emotional outbursts, it’s impossible not to wonder if she would have been a more interesting subject for a movie (at least she can express something more than a constant sneer). Kinnear on the other hand, flitters between looking uncomfortable and bringing out the same in others. He does his best to bring some degree of humour or warmth to the piece, but in a film completely devoid of it, it’s impossible to understand what it was that attracted him to the role other than the paycheck.
There’s really not much else I can say, this movie should have been aborted before it had the chance to develop. Avoid at all costs.