THE LAST SONG (2010)
Starring Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Bobby Coleman, Liam Hemsworth, Kelly Preston, Carly Chaikin, Hallock Beals, Nick Lashaway, Kate Vernon, Melissa Ordway and Nick Searcy.
Screenplay by Nicholas Sparks and Jeff Van Wie.
Directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
Distributed by Touchstone Pictures. 108 minutes. Rated PG.
Miley Cyrus announced before her dramatic film debut The Last Song was being released to theaters that she was giving up her stellar career as a pop singer to concentrate on acting.
Now that the film has been released, it looks like Cyrus may want to reconsider giving up her day job just yet.
It’s not that she has no talent as an actress, but she certainly at this point does not have enough talent to carry a film. She can do certain things very well. She’s very good at brooding, pouting and being bitchy. She has a luminous smile. She can even cry on cue.
However, she doesn’t have the range of emotions to pull off this very overwrought material – a deficiency that is made even more obvious in the scenes she has to play against a cagey film vet like Greg Kinnear. Cyrus looks overmatched, honestly.
Of course, this film would be a high wire act for just about any young actress. It was based on a book by the cheesy-novelist du jour, Nicholas Sparks (who also receives his first co-screenwriter credit on this project). In fact, apparently Sparks wrote this novel in the hopes that someday Miley Cyrus would star in the film adaptation. Dare to dream, Nicholas. Particularly when that dream is responsible for… umm… this. Never mind.
Sparks’ maudlin novels have been surprisingly fertile ground for Hollywood (I will resist the overly-obvious-yet-valid “things grow in manure” pun) – films based on his work include The Notebook, Message in a Bottle, A Walk to Remember, Dear John and Night in Rodanthe with two more in the works.
As a Sparks film, you can expect certain things. True love will not go smoothly, but it will eventually overcome all adversity. Someone will be hiding the fact that they are dying. Our main character will be overly emotional and misunderstood. Kissing is even more important than sex. People will cry and tell each other “I love you” almost constantly. They will live in a beautiful, extraordinarily scenic rural area and wallow in the wonder of nature. And there will be enough sap to drown a forest of trees.
However, for all the problems with Sparks as a writer, one thing that his films always had – at least previously – were very strong actors in their lead roles, who are savvy enough artists that the massive servings of corn have a sense of gravitas. Amongst these actors who almost made Sparks’ work bearable: Kevin Costner, Robin Wright Penn, Paul Newman, Mandy Moore, Ryan Gosling, Rachel McAdams, Diane Lane, Richard Gere and Amanda Seyfried.
Cyrus – whose film experience is limited to The Hannah Montana Movie, The Best of Both Worlds Concert and a voiceover in the animated film Bolt – is just lost here. She is used to light comedy in her sitcom; dramatic pathos is outside of her range. As much as she tries gamely to wallow in the melodrama, she just doesn’t have the touch to pull it off.
Of course, it doesn’t help that her pretty boy love interest is played by inscrutable Australian actor Liam Hemsworth – best known for a stint on the long-lived Aussie soap Neighbors. Hemsworth does a wonderful job in losing his natural accent for a small-town Georgia twang, but otherwise his character is rather generic. While most of the fault for that goes on the writer, Hemsworth also isn’t quite good enough to elevate the material.
As mentioned before, the only thing that raises the film up is Kinnear. His character is as poorly-written and clichéd as everyone else’s, but when he is on screen The Last Song gets its only real shots of life and realism.
So, Miley, don’t go all in quite yet. Lots of people juggle careers as a musician and as an actor. Continue riding out the pop stardom – because let’s face it, even your music career has passed its peak – and take some acting classes. Someday you may be able to have a career just as an actress, but you aren’t quite there yet.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2010 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: August 5, 2010.