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‘The Last Song’ misses key notes
Hannah Montana was right when she said “Nobody’s Perfect,” and that includes Miley Cyrus’s performance in “The Last Song.”
When Nicholas Sparks makes a movie adaptation from the pages of his latest tearjerker, audiences can expect his usual love story. The typical formula includes strained family relationships, lovers separated by social class, an incurable illness, and of course, a tragic ending.
Although thoroughly predictable, “The Last Song” might have been more bearable had Sparks not written the main character specifically for Cyrus, who plays 18-year-old rebel Ronnie. Her thickening criminal record prompts her mother (Kelly Preston) to send her and her younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman), to stay with their dad (Greg Kinnear) at his beautiful Georgia beach house for the summer.
Although the beach scenery is tranquil and beautiful, Cyrus’s gothic style and rat’s nest of a hairdo ruins many a picturesque frame.
Ronnie, a former piano prodigy, resents her parents for thrusting their dreams of musical success onto her, and refuses to attend Julliard in the fall out of spite. Despite Ronnie’s slouching, pouting, rudeness, and snaggle-tooth smirk, local hunk Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth) somehow still finds her attractive.
Despite their real-life romance, the pair tries too hard to copy the same on-screen chemistry as Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling from “The Notebook.” They fail. Romeo and Juliet they are not.
Though Ronnie and Will’s relationship quickly develops, the film’s PG rating hinders the star-crossed lovers from becoming too physical. Clearly Cyrus’s manager wants to maintain her “good girl” image for as long as possible, before her reputation completely spoils. Her topless 2008 Vanity Fair photo shoot started the process.
One major problem with “The Last Song” is its numerous subplots, which never fully develop. In addition to an accusation that Ronnie’s dad started a church fire, other back stories include a terminal illness, a strained father-daughter relationship, a defiant friend in an abusive relationship, a boyfriend with a dead brother, a nest of sea turtle eggs threatened by raccoons, and a budding romance. The movie’s 107 minute runtime is crammed.
The movie’s biggest upset, by far, is Ms. Cyrus. While desperately trying to lose the Hannah Montana persona that crowned her Disney channel royalty, she fails to correctly portray simple emotions such as sad, worried, and excited. As her character cried, I smiled, and when she was happy, I glared.
Cyrus’s performance will affect some viewers, since light sniffling did exist amongst sporadic giggles from the audience.
“The Last Song” was Cyrus’s first big screen role other than the “Hannah Montana” movie, so naturally an Oscar-worthy performance wasn’t expected. As Hannah Montana, Cyrus displayed childlike charm, but as Ronnie Miller, she exudes fake defiance and standoffishness.
Cyrus’s piano skills are impressive in the film, and she clearly has instrumental talent. Though Cyrus has had past musical success, viewers are lucky there is only one scene where she sings, since her voice sounds as though she still wears a pallet expander.
The movie’s saving grace proves to be Kinnear, who traded in his usual egotistical character for a more sensitive role. Coleman plays a typical vivacious younger brother, whose performance will bring you closer to tears than Cyrus’s. Staring at a frequently shirtless Hemsworth isn’t so bad either.
It’s likely this won’t be Cyrus’s last acting opportunity, or our last chance to judge her skills. But despite this poor performance, perhaps there will be a future spot for her on “All My Children.”
Photo credit: Touchstone Pictures