Based on the novel by Nicholas
Sparks (Dear John, The Notebook)"The Last Song"
follows Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) and her estranged father (Greg
Kinnear) as he tries to restore the loving relationship they
once had. But connecting with his rebellious daughter isn't
easy, so he chooses the one thing they still have in common:
music. His competition? A summer romance with a local rich
boy (Liam Hemsworth).
If we could only stay young forever, Miley Cyrus could always remain as Hannah Montana. But no, because the reality of life beckons, the 17-year-old has in “The Last Song” attempted to break free from the shackles of her Disney alter-ego in an older and more dramatic role. Her Ronnie Miller here has a history of shoplifting and other forms of adolescent bad behaviour, brought on by her parents’ divorce which she blames on her father.
This may sound mildly disturbing to her fans, but don’t worry- this is a Disney film after all, so you won’t have to worry that this will spoil her wholesome, girl-next-door image. What fans should be more worried however is how this role shows off the limitations of Miley’s acting abilities. Indeed, other than pouting, slouching and slamming some doors, there’s little to suggest that Miley is actually playing an angry and dispirited teen from a broken family.
Miley’s inability to flesh out her character only becomes more painfully obvious during the course of the movie, which is really as you’d probably have guessed by now, little more than standard Sparks-melodramatic fare. Still, the reason why “The Notebook” and “Dear John” had fared better than other Sparks’ adaptations lies in the ability of their actors in getting audiences to believe and empathise with their respective characters, a crucial trait which Miley- despite the best of her efforts- is unable to summon to this role.
Sans that, the contrivances of Sparks’ stories become even more glaringly obvious. Those who have watched at least one Sparks movie or read at least one of his books would easily identify the hallmarks of his by-now tried-and-tested formula- star-crossed romance between two people of different social classes; terminal illness; and at the end, reconciliation. Yes it’s pure mush, and if you’ve never liked one of Sparks’ works, then you might as well avoid them all.
But “The Last Song” isn’t one of his better print-to-screen adaptations not just because of Miley in the lead role. It also suffers as a film due to Sparks’ own reluctance to cut down his own material. Adapting his own book for the first time with long-time friend Jeff Van Wie, Sparks lets his own screenplay wander in too many different directions without keeping the story focused on its key characters and their struggles. Unfortunately, director Julie Ann Robinson who has mostly worked on TV dramas, also lacks the discipline to keep the film tight. As a result, there are too many subplots which leave the film sluggish and muddled.
The one bright spark in the movie is Greg Kinnear’s earnest and moving performance. Though his subtlety may seem misplaced in the melodrama that is “The Last Song”, it is ultimately what gives the film its emotional bearings. Yet, Kinnear alone isn’t enough to save a film that is clearly not one of the better Sparks’ film adaptations to date. Sorry Miley, maybe it’s time to go back to Hannah Montana for a little while more.
SPECIAL FEATURES :
The most significant extra on this disc is the audio commentary with director Julie Anne Robinson and co-producer Jennifer Gibgot. Robinson has a genuinely affable personality which shines through in her commentary, and her keenness to share filming details of individual scenes in the film is probably the best reason to sit through this.
There’s also a 5-min set tour with young actor Bobby Coleman (who plays Miley’s younger brother in the movie) which shuns the obvious bigwig crew members in favour of showing the behind-the-scenes work of the gaffer, grip, craft services and costume and makeup people. You also get a featurette on the making-of the music video (directed by producer Adam Shankman of “Hairspray” and “Bedtime Stories”) and the MTV to round up the disc.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is surprisingly rich for this talky movie. Besides the sound of the waves, it also makes use of the back speakers to deliver other ambient sounds to provide an immersive experience where possible. Visual transfer is great, providing a warm lush look to the Savannah locations.
by Gabriel Chong
Posted on 7 September 2010