If action movies are the entertainment burden that girlfriends must endure, then romantic dramadies is how these women retort. It’s an unfair response, however, since boyfriends don’t typically expect their lives to be an action movie. Girlfriends, on the other hand, tend to view romantic comedies and dramas as a kind of reality to aspire to. That being said, The Last Song will definitely please its target audience and infuriate everyone else.
Ronnie (Miley Cyrus) is a malcontent teenager who’s been this way ever since her parents split up. Her mother, Kim (Kelly Preston), is getting remarried and wants Ronnie and her brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman), to spend the summer with their father, Steve (Greg Kinnear), at his beachfront property in Georgia. Ronnie feels betrayed by her father for his leaving and plans on hating every moment during her stay. She makes the most of it, however, making new friends and meeting a boy named Will (Liam Hemsworth) who pursues Ronnie vigorously. Little does Ronnie know that her summer with her father will be an exploration into love, life and the complexities of human relationships.
Young girls are absolutely going to love this movie. In the reality of the film, Ronnie is exceedingly prickly throughout, yet the love interest, Will, is crazy about her for no apparent reason other than that she’s a new face. It’s also worth mentioning that Will is the splitting image of Adonis. Imagine the facial expressions and acting of Josh Hartnett and the physique of Channing Tatum and you have Liam Hemsworth. As Will, he’s educated, cares about animals, volunteers at the aquarium, knows his way around engines and comes from a wonderful background. Ronnie is obnoxiously rude, but still gets the guy. What teenage girl doesn’t like this scenario?
Other viewers – like boyfriends of these teenage girls – will probably not appreciate The Last Song as much. For every guy who finds extended fight scenes completely practical in an action movie there is an extended cute date scene in The Last Song to give those guys the female perspective. The sappy romance is aggressive and relentless. It goes so far as to push the boundaries of good taste. Whereas most viewers only need one scene of romance to understand that a relationship is blossoming, The Last Song delivers three in a row. Furthermore, it’s alarming that when Ronnie discovers that Will has taken her out on a “packaged” date that he’s taken all of his many previous girlfriends on, he’s able to assuage her anger by simply kissing her and saying, “You’re different from the other girls.” The girls in the theater will no doubt swoon while their boyfriends will wonder why that line never worked for them.
Thankfully, there’s actually a satisfying story that bookends the treacly teenage plot. Greg Kinnear does a wonderful job trying to salvage a relationship with his estranged daughter. There’s a particular naturalness about his performance that probably comes from his experiences with his own three daughters. Audiences can’t help but feel sympathy for his situation. Surprisingly, young Bobby Coleman turns in a solid performance as well. Some of his lines feel a little forced, but overall he’s fun to watch whenever he’s on-screen. Miley Cyrus more or less plays herself. Thankfully, it’s not a bad performance, but it also doesn’t quite feel like acting, either. Nevertheless, the drama-heavy third act will speak to audiences of all ages and will probably elicit a few sniffles here and there.
The Last Song should be a commercial success. It stars beautiful people, features a teenage girl’s idea of romance and shoehorns an adult theme into the story to keep younger audiences from feeling like they’re watching a kids movie. Everyone else outside of the target audience will leave the theater with the unshakeable feeling that the film wasn’t written for people; it was written for a demographic.