More often than not movies are used as recreational escapism. And rightfully so. There’s nothing wrong with zoning out in a chilled movie theater for ninety minutes or so. These recreational movies generally hit generic action, comedic and emotional beats. Love stories usually focus on the struggle to attain love, the pain of losing it, or both. In my opinion, it is a rare occasion when celluloid presents an honest and engaging love story to its audience. The Last Song starts out strong, but does it withstand its own emotional baggage? Hit the jump to find out.
The Last Song quickly introduces Miley Cyrus’s Ronnie as a bad girl. While on the road to Georgia to visit her father, the audience learns Ronnie is trouble. Through exposition we are informed that Ronnie has previously been arrested. Visually Ronnie is presented as a teen rebel. She’s clearly different, tough and angst riddled. She rocks grungy clothes, has mangy bag lady hair and stomps about the beach in mean looking leather boots. Apparently somewhat of a wunderkind, Ronnie was accepted to Julliard on the basis of her pianist skills. The prestigious school had been “watching her since she was 5.” Being a pissy teenager, Ronnie sharply tells her estranged father she has no intention of attending. This brief, taught verbal exchange between Ronnie and her pops, Steve (Greg Kinnear), sets up a relatable tension between the characters played by Cyrus and Kinnear.
As usual Greg Kinnear is solid, and embroiders his character with a zippy swagger. In The Last Song he’s like a straight, less spastic version of Simon Bishop in As Good As It Gets. Steve’s character arc is both understandable and tragic. While not spectacular, Cyrus’s acting is serviceable. Her moments with her summer fling Will (aka the bro of Thor star Chris Hemsworth) are clumsy and awkward as they would be in real life. The love story between Ronnie and Will is believable enough, until the plot melts into a melodramatic soapy mess. You know, Ronnie is the artsy rebellious type and good ol’ William is tall, strong and handsome. Oh, and he comes from a wealthy family. Of course he does. As the narrative progresses, The Last Song felt like a generic cookie cutter love story. In the bottom half of the movie, the audience is teased that Ronnie’s father has an illness, but it’s nothing to worry about. As the unforgiving Hollywood plot line fates would have it, the illness was serious. Terminally serious. Excuse my vernacular, but what the f%&$? Seriously. Let me drop some science here. I can excuse the pout Cyrus slapped on her mug in too many scenes, the goofy teenage romance and other ridiculous happenings in The Last Song. Toying with an audiences emotions under the guise of a love story and a family drama is uninspired and inexcusable. Where the story suddenly drove Greg Kinnear’s character was a cheap and unimaginative cop out. Aside from it being cheap, it shortened the focus on Ronnie and Will’s narrative. The movie attempted to zoom in on too many interpersonal conflicts and came up short on each.
The Last Song’s special features truly are special, because they prevented my medulla oblongata from melting. An alternate opening sequence (with commentary), deleted scenes, a set walk through, a music video accompanied with a making of feature, and the obligatory feature commentary. The set walk through with young actor Bobby Coleman (who played Ronnie’s brother Jonah) was easily the best special feature. The kid has some natural charisma, and by all appearances The Last Song looked like a fun picture to work on. Too bad the jolliness didn’t translate over to the final product. The accompanied music video and behind the scenes feature were pretty decent too. In fact, if The Last Song had been reduced to just the music video it would’ve been a more concise product.
Seeing as I thoroughly criticized The Last Song for its anemic love story, I feel I should offer up an example of a film that handled a quick burning romance in a more entertaining, genuine and honest fashion. 500 Days of Summer, while certainly melancholy and bittersweet, it presented a believable and focused love story. It wasn’t always cheery, but its message was ultimately positive and honest. Marc Webb’s film didn’t resort to suddenly murking characters to illicit an emotional response from the audience. What kills me (pun intended) is how many people (adolescent females possibly?) stuff their figurative gullets with this fast food movie junk. What is it about tacky love stories with ludicrous plots and minute character development that cause the masses to flock to these “movies”? Early on in The Last Song, Ronnie barks :“I did not come here for some stupid summer romance.” Well, I did not come here for some stupid summer romance movie. Peace up, A town down party people.