The latest film in a string of previous box-office hits by a bestselling author, this story was written “backwards.” First the screenplay was written then the novel at the request of the leading lady herself.
Divorce has ripped their family apart. Or that is what eighteen-year-old Veronica “Ronnie” Miller (Miley Cyrus) has been acting out on. Her grades in school are terrible, giving her a barely passing grade, and now even with an acceptance to Julliard, the piano prodigy has allowed no one to break her hardened wall of bitterness. As her mother plans to re-marry, Ronnie and her little brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are sent to their dad’s house for the summer. Having written to his daughter for their entire separation only to have those letters unopened, Steve (Greg Kinnear) is taken aback at the sullen young lady his daughter has become and even more so to learn she hasn’t touched a piano since he left…
Not wanting anything to do with the father she saw as walking out, Ronnie spends a great deal of time walking the beaches which is where she meets Will (Liam Hemsworth). Will is immediately intrigued by Ronnie even as she puts him off. A high school grad about to leave for college, he too is having conflicts with his parents. Through a tremulous start, the two bond at Will’s insistence, and eventually begin a romance, until tragedy strikes and Ronnie’s fragile relationships unravel…
And so the story goes. Seasoned viewers who have been through dozens of similar takes from Hollywood know the gist of how this particular film will turn out; there will be a dreadful secret unveiled, shouting, a time for making up and healing, and lots (and lots!) of angst. Attach the name Nicholas Sparks’, and it’s pretty apparent just where this latest tearjerker is headed. With the exception of Dear John I do not much care for Mr. Spark’s novel-to-screen adaptations. All are tragic, all have some form of betrayal and each end on bitter feelings or at best reflectively. For someone who enjoys movies for their entertainment values and not to be reminded that life is full of sorrows and challenges, I like to be taken into a fairytale land in my down time. So… why do I watch this author’s works, you may wonder? I cannot say aside from the fact that his stories always look appealing and yes, I am a total sucker for romance. The Last Song tends to be a very moody picture and with that comes the realization that what we’ve settled in for is a teenage flick geared towards youngsters who are fans of the leading lady.
Miley Cyrus has been in the news a lot during her teen years, for her sake that is sad, because she hasn’t been given nor protected a normal childhood. She has received copious amounts of criticism in her career amid those constant remarks of this being her first post-Hannah Montana related role. Compared to that bubblegum Disney role she undertook for five years, her Ronnie is about as far removed from the role that gained her stardom as can be imagined. Miley plays Ronnie to an extreme extent; she joins her brother (begrudgingly) at her dad’s with a rebellious attitude with body language that practically screams her displeasure at being in the small Georgia town, then meets a guy who changes all that when tragedy strikes. It plays a little unrealistic but some of it does ring true that until something is threatened or taken, we do not know how good that part of our life is, but it did seem a bit unrealistic.
Despite the hubbub, Miley plays her role well enough that it far from ruins the story. Considering this is her first “serious” role, she should be given a break and time to grow, but there isn’t a lot of emotion from Miley, so that we “feel” nothing that urges us to grieve with Ronnie. She and former real-life love, Liam share a decent cutesy chemistry that is more teen crush than the “real love” it’s projected as being while the movie really belongs to Bobby Coleman (he is hilarious and provides for the much needed tension-breaker). Kelly Preston also makes an appearance. Unfortunately for the hundreds of young girls who will clamor to see “Hannah Montana,” this is best kept out of their hands. Filmmakers flirted with danger not only in how they dress Miley but the movie is filled with moments Will and Ronnie share including nights spent on the beach. (Dad, Steve – who spied on them with binoculars, once draws a line in the sand and moves Will’s chair several feet away from Ronnie and really, it is a hilarious, touching moment.) What I can appreciate about their relationship apart from it seemingly remaining sweet, is the fact that they are both eighteen and not pre-teens or fifteen-year-olds.
Admiring qualities do take shape; you just have to look harder for the few hidden jewels. The music which sets a surprisingly lovely lyrical tone was a highlight of the film and since I grew up loving music it was something I enjoyed. Even when things become emotionally-charged or an inevitable burst of anger is aimed towards another, the expressive soundtrack and gorgeous beach scenery provide the audience with an alternative, making them almost forget any unpleasantness. Sadly, this isn’t suitable for younger viewers, which is understandably going to disappoint those Miley fans… but then she has made the choice to set shameful examples for those girls who have looked up to her.(Various innuendoes are littered into the script. Drug use is implied as is teen drinking [one guy tries to hit on Ronnie]. Elsewhere Ronnie storms out of the house disappearing for hours on end never telling her father where she’ll be. Profanity is infrequent but inappropriate for a PG-rated film; bi*ch, da*n, h*ll, and a few crudities, along with a few OMG. A fistfight breaks out; everyone is either shirtless [the guys] or wearing bathing suits for most of the runtime.)