Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Julie Anne Robinson
Stars: Miley Cyrus, Greg Kinnear, Liam Hemsworth, Bobby Coleman, Kelly Preston, Hallock Beals, Nick Lashaway, Carly Chaikin, Melissa Ordway, Nick Searcy.
The Last Song is the latest formulaic, by the numbers soppy and manipulative tearjerker from the pen of Nicholas Sparks, whose previous works include The Notebook, Nights In Rodanthe, and the current Dear John. The film predictably follows many of the same themes – love, loss, death, hidden secrets, families in crisis, and unread correspondence. But unlike the bulk of Sparks’ work, which is aimed at a more mature audience, The Last Song is deliberately aimed at a teenage audience, and in particular fans of pop starlet Miley Cyrus. The film is a vehicle that allows teen star Cyrus to try and flex her acting muscles and leave behind her popular creation Hannah Montana.
Cyrus plays Ronnie Miller, a rebellious and troubled teen, a former musical prodigy who stopped playing the piano in the wake of her parent’s divorce. But now Ronnie and her younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) have been sent down to Georgia to spend the summer with their estranged father Steve (Greg Kinnear). Ronnie is resentful and surly, and lets everybody know it, especially as she blames her father for the divorce. Steve is a former classical musician who taught Ronnie to play the piano. But now, while he tries to compose his music, he spends his spare time restoring stained glass windows (I suspect that there is not much call for this specialised skill these days!)
But a number of events soften her attitude, and enable her to reconnect with her father and the world around her. When she stumbles upon a nest of sea turtle eggs on the beach she becomes protective of them and watches over them until they hatch. And there is the summer romance between her and the handsome Will (Australian actor Liam Hemsworth), the son of a dysfunctional rich family. Will has a summer job as a mechanic and also volunteers at the local aquarium. But he also has a secret that threatens to tear the couple apart.
The Last Song is the first time that Sparks has actually been involved writing for the screen – he co-wrote the script with his old college friend Jeff Van Wie – and it shows in the rather clunky structure of the script. There are numerous subplots, which include the sea turtles, a spot of church arson, a girl with an abusive boyfriend, Will’s family problems, etc that seem cluttered. Tv director Julie Anne Robinson makes her feature film debut here, but her direction is laboured and pedestrian.
Cyrus is out of her depth in a more dramatic role, and her performance is unconvincing and one-dimensional. Hemsworth is okay in a role that was originally intended for Twilight star Taylor Lautner, he of the buff bod and long locks – which probably explains why his character is required to spend much of his time shirtless. Kinnear does well in a sympathetic role, and his engaging style suits his character well, and his is easily the best performance in the film.
The Last Song is cloyingly saccharine, despite its faults and formulaic nature, Cyrus’s enormous fan base will probably lap it up.