(2010)3Alaina O'ConnorNicholas Sparks doesn't hold back when it comes to sentimental love stories that bring middle-aged women and their daughters to tears, and The Last Song is no different. Based on his novel of the same name, the film explores the emotionally complex world of a teenage girl transitioning to womanhood during a summer of discovery. The trailer paints the film like a sappy summer romance that ends in heartbreak in an attempt to appeal to the teenage fan base that grew up with Hannah Montana, but in actuality the film is about the relationship between a daughter, her father, and a piano. Though The Last Song hits all the necessary emotional highs and lows, it's the in-between moments that suffer as a result, and at times you question whether the film was the right vehicle for a young actress who's still very green.
Disney darling Miley Cyrus sheds her teenybopper persona to star as Veronica "Ronnie" Miller, a defiant teenager sent to live with her estranged father for the summer in a small Southern beach town. Ronnie resents him for leaving the family when she was young, and out of spite gives up a potential spot at the Juilliard School of Music. One day she meets hunky Will (Liam Hemsworth), a beach-volleyball-playing Southerner with a privileged background. Ronnie resists his advances, but eventually gives in to his charms and begins a whirlwind romance that leads to the couple making plans to move to New York City. But when she discovers that her father has a terminal illness, Ronnie decides to reprioritize her life in an effort to resuscitate their relationship.
Cyrus makes a good effort in her transition from preteen idol to serious actor in a hopeful attempt at making the young Hollywood list, and though she does a good job of invoking the kind of sentimentality necessary to translate the character from page to screen, her performance is at times inconsistent, and an attempt at an emotional connection with the audience falls flat -- which leads you to wonder if at this point in her acting career this role is just beyond her reach. There is, however, a definite connection between Ronnie and her father, Steve, played by Greg Kinnear, who has a knack for playing characters with heavy hearts who are more complex than they seem. Their relationship is solid and Kinnear's acting prowess helps anchor Cyrus.
Director Julie Anne Robinson demonstrates restraint, and the film never veers too far into melodrama territory, perhaps in part due to the solid script by Nicholas Sparks and Jeff Van Wie. Even though this is Sparks' first time adapting his own novel, he does a great job of including all the necessary plot points and makes it work for a big-screen format. That's what makes The Last Song more sentimental than melodramatic, and by the end of the film even the most cynical of moviegoers might find themselves shedding a tear.
Miley Cyrus stars as a teenager who reconnects with her father years after her parents go through a nasty divorce in this adaptation of the Nicholas Sparks novel. The novelist also provides the screenplay for the production, which is directed by Julie Ann Robinson.