by Rick Grant
Novelist/screenwriter, Nicholas Sparks wrote this screenplay as a vehicle for Miley Cyrus’ serious acting debut. Financed by Disney/Touchstone, the story parallels some of Cyrus’ own life as a hormone addled 17 year old teenager, going on 30. As it turned out, the picture is a formulaic family drama, but features quality production values and acting by a stellar cast.
Remarkably, Cyrus deftly portrayed Veronica “Ronnie” Miller, who is unwillingly taken by her mother Kim (Kelly Preston) to visit her father, Steve Miller (Greg Kinnear) on Tybee Island, Georgia. This is a bucolic setting where he lives and works as a musical composer and stained glass window artist.
Ronnie is typically rebellious and when she arrives she ignores her father. She is a gifted pianist who has been accepted at Julliard School of Music in NYC. However, she has announced that she is not going and hasn’t played piano in months. Cyrus plays the bitchy teenager with savvy acting chops, like she is actually going through this phase.
Along with Ronnie, her annoying younger brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) tags along. He is impressed by his father’s beach front house and his stained glass hobby. For Ronnie, however, she has made up her mind to adopt a negative attitude about being with her father for the summer.
Director Julie Anne Robinson has an intimate feel for the story and uses unpretentious filmmaking techniques to allow the characters to tell the story. Cyrus is a natural actor who, of course, is drawing on her own experience for the role.
But as Nicholas Sparks said, this role would be difficult for any actress, much less a neophyte. Cyrus has to make many emotional transitions that test her intrinsic talent. Happily, for all concerned, including the audience, she passes these tests with poise and verve. And, she never sings a note, excect for a brief car scene with her new boyfriend.
The story has a serious side that goes through a seismic shift in mood. Cyrus handles this change with just the right emotional nuances. Of course, director Julie Anne Robinson can take credit for guiding Cyrus through this tricky transition. But, Cyrus delivers on cue.
When Ronnie meets a hunky guy on the beach, Will Blakelee (Liam Hemsworth–Cyrus’ real-life boyfriend) who expresses interest in her, at first, she shuns him, but he doggedly pursues her until she falls for him. He takes her home to meet his folks, who live in a restored plantation mansion. The relationship undergoes the slings and arrows of teenage romance as a lead-in to the serious drama to come.
Greg Kinnear is especially noteworthy as the father who calmly deals with his daughter’s raging hormones and budding romance with Will. As an experienced actor, Kinnear was the right choice for the role. He really gets into Steve Miller’s consciousness as a concerned parent and creative artist. His role is pivotal.
All things considered, this is a worthwhile family drama that showcases Miley Cyrus as a serious actress. It remains to be seen if she can make the difficult transition from teen musical idol to serious actress as she ages into her twenties. The thing about Disney is, viewers can always expect a quality product that entertains and makes movie going worth the effort. I would recommend this movie to anyone.
THE LAST SONG movie review
by Rick Grant