I have come to despise Nicholas Sparks. He's a novelist who has had a spate of his books adapted to the screen in recent years. Just the mention of his name sends a shock wave through my brain as I know what will be coming my direction: a manipulative, heavy handed, contrived, melodramatic romance. The Last Song is the latest Sparks vehicle made to be endured by anyone with a smidgen of good taste.
The adage bad books equals bad movies should be used when connected to Sparks. His book-to-screen résumé includes such overt weepers as Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe. It was only a couple of months ago that Sparks' Dear John came out, and I thought I'd seen the worst a 2010 film could deliver, I was wrong. The Last Song is so woefully atrocious it had me craving for those halcyon hours when I was watching Dear John.
Miley Cyrus stars as Ronnie, a petulant, pouty faced 17-year-old who is shuttled off with her little brother to the southern coast to spend the summer with their father (Greg Kinnear). Ronnie is a surly, edgy teenager who fashions herself a rebel. She's holding a grudge against her dad for her parents' divorce years earlier -- everything is his fault, everything.
Ronnie has been in town about three minutes before she's met a hunky beach volleyball player she's trading phony, scripted banter with (Liam Hemsworth, Cyrus' real life beau according to gossip rags). Ronnie isn't that committed to her rebellious unhappiness because quickly she's off with her beach volleyballer swimming in an aquarium, kissing in the ocean, writing "forever" on each other's ratty Converse or carving their initials into trees. The pair also does a lot of fighting. They argue, break up, get back together, bicker some more, split up, get back together -- repeatedly. It's excruciating.
Ronnie has a secret talent that she's given up on: She's a prodigy on the piano and was accepted into Juilliard without an audition. She's not going to Juilliard due to her lingering rage with daddy over his abandoning her and when we actually see her play the piano -- she's not that good! Ronnie plays a couple of simple, theatrical, silly pieces of stylized fluff that would be scoffed at by anyone connected to Juilliard, so that's another thing The Last Song completely flubs.
The entire story is a collection of phony, preachy scenes connected by songs fading in and out. The dialogue is so artificial and trite I'm not sure who should be more embarrassed -- the actors, the writer or the audience for paying good money to see this wreck. I'll go with Sparks since it is his vision to the double power, he wrote the book AND the script. I doubt he has the acumen level to garner the necessary shame, plus the mounds of cash he piles up for this drivel makes those kinds of emotions disappear.
The Last Song has Cyrus attempting to branch out from her "Hannah Montana" character and do something serious. She wants to escape from the lucrative, teenage ghetto she is in but not alienate her audience completely because that audience is who she wants to still come see her act.
The problem for Cyrus is she's not a good actress. She is so mechanical you can almost see her mind working before she delivers her next line or well chosen eye roll. Trying hard doesn't make for a good performance if you can't really act, and Cyrus attempting to do drama just amplifies her inadequacies as an actress.
This movie was so calculatedly chosen for Cyrus that the credits should have mentioned her agent, father Billy Ray, accountants and other assorted hangers on in her world. To the studios and marketers that comprise the business element of the film industry, Cyrus is a commodity, a brand to suck every last cent out of her audience. Their hope is that the Cyrus followers will have low expectations and will accept anything Miley stars in, no matter the quality. In the case of The Last Song, that level is very, very low but if it makes money, then the Miley cash making enterprise will roll on. It's kind of sad to witness something so coldly manufactured.
Poor Greg Kinnear, he's a charming actor and has talent, but partnered with a raw and robotic Cyrus, it's a hopeless endeavor. Kinnear tries his hardest but even the best of actors would have a hard time when reciting Sparks' awful lines. Daniel Day-Lewis at his most awesome would stand no chance when faced with the oeuvre of Nicholas Sparks.
The Last Song is a horrible film in every conceivable way. It's cinematic treacle from people who have no business making movies. The acting is amateurish, the script is embarrassingly cliché ridden and the story is a non-stop collection of unauthentic melodrama. And Nicholas Sparks? I'm hopefully done with him for a long, long time.
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