March 31, 2010, - 12:16 pm

Mid-Week Box Office: Cloying, Manipulative “Last Song” Made Me Angry

By Debbie Schlussel

If you’re the parent of tween or teen fans of Miley Cyrus (or, as we call her here, Miley Virus), think twice about her new movie, “The Last Song,” which debuts in theaters, today.  It’s not that there’s anything explicit or graphic that’s objectionable–there are no four-letter words or even a single sex scene. (And, perhaps, we should be happy at that.  But that should be the baseline, not the standard for a great movie for a young audience.)


It’s that the movie is so cloying, maudlin, and manipulative, it made me angry. Throughout the entire second half of the movie, the loud, crying wails of the audience (at the screening I attended last week) were audible and scary.  People at this chick flick were literally bawling.  It’s not just that the movie was pointless and made everyone cry (including me), it’s that it wasn’t a happy movie-going experience.  Instead, it’s an exercise in providing the entire Third World’s new water source through your eyeballs, as you watch an obviously contrived set-up to a father dying of cancer.  For myself, all it did was remind me of my own father’s painful death from the disease.  Did I need that?  Do you?  Not really. . . unless we had a financial interest in perpetuating Hannah Montana’s hackneyed showbiz career.  And the plot was stupid.

Hey kids, enjoy the cancer movie.  I’ll pick ya up in two hours. . . .

I walked out of the theater, angry.  Angry at the typical, cheap emotional tricks I saw coming from miles away.  Angry at the base manipulative nature of the whole thing, on top of a simpleton plot.  Angry because for no reason I was put there to watch the pain of death by cancer for no point, unless the point is that a horrible actress, Cyrus, can have a launchpad and try to prove to the world that she’s beyond the days of a Disney kids’ show.  I mean, who really wants to sit through a movie in which the loud, very audible crying and sniffling of the audience is the main event for half of it?  Not me.  Movies are supposed to be an escape from real life, not a compounding upon the problems of it.  This wasn’t enjoyable at all.  Instead, it was the usual trumped up melodrama . . . times ten.  Lots of crying, screaming, yelling, fighting.  Who needs it?  Go to your local divorce court, and you’ll see the real thing for free.

The story:  Cyrus plays Ronnie, a kid who was once a talented prodigy in piano playing.  But once her parents broke up and her father (Greg Kinnear) left, she quit piano for a life of being a derelict and punk.  She barely graduated high school, dresses like a goth girl, and ignores admission into Juilliard.  After getting caught stealing, Ronnie and her little brother are sent to their father’s beach-side home for the summer, where he is at work composing music and building a new stained glass window for an old church that burnt down and is being restored.

Soon, Ronnie falls for a wealthy, preppy kid she meets on the beach (her real-life boyfriend, Liam Hemsworth).  And that wealthy, preppy kid’s family has its own contrived, ridiculous set of monumental tragedy and unhappiness.  Of course.  Plus she learns her own father is suspected of burning down the church, himself.  Sullen and belligerent, she doesn’t want to be there and argues with her dad.  But soon, everything is great and they are getting along and she begins playing piano again, until . . . until she learns he is dying of cancer.  The rest of the movie is watching her father slowly die.

Great movie, right?  Does the world really need this much “cancer porn” on screen?

What was the point?  I’m not sure.  And the “happy ending” that was is really more like the band-aid over a happy ending that wasn’t.

It’s typical Nicholas Sparks schtick (who wrote the novels on which all of these are based:  this one, “The Notebook,” “Nights in Rodanthe” (read my review), and “Dear John” (which I did like–read my review), though this is the worst of the bunch.  It’s the typical formula.  Two (usually) young, good-looking people fall in love, but then they are separated by some big, contrived event, then someone dies a horribly tragic death, but right after, there’s some tiny, happy thing that brings it around.  In this case, that “tiny, happy reunification” isn’t enough to go beyond. This is Miley Cyrus–Hollywood Hack–failing at acting in the middle of a pointless display of cancer pain and death.

Greg Kinnear, who adds weight and gravitas, seemed so out of place in this manufactured, formulaic teen love flick, it’s like watching a Shakespearian actor grovelling to Donald Trump on the set of the long ago jumped-the-shark, “Celebrity Apprentice.”  It doesn’t work.  If there was one redeeming thing about this movie, it’s that Kinnear’s father in the movie is ultimately a loving, caring father . . . but he’s also the guy who abandoned the family, which is par for the course of the kind of father figures to which we’re constantly treated in anti-masculine Hollywood.  The heroine in this movie is clearly the goth girl saint played by Cyrus.  How many goth girls do you know, who are saints?

This movie was so obvious, so simple, so silly.  If you really have nothing better to do with two hours of your time and ten bucks plus of your money, this is for you.  For everyone else, conserve the Kleenex for legitimate purposes and send Miley packin’.  Time for her teen fans to wake up.  Stick a fork in her.  She’s done.


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11 Responses

My nickname for her has been “Smiley Mirus” and has been ever since I heard her first song on the radio. It was sickening pap then, her movie sounds like more of the same sickening pap. I think I’ll watch “The Alamo” again.

kenny komodo on March 31, 2010 at 3:51 pm

you forgot A Walk to Remember — which is also a cry-fest

Jennifer on March 31, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Sorry about your father, Debbie.

“Hannah Montana” is a Disney show – not Nickelodeon.

A: You are correct. Fixed. DS

Amy on March 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm

honestly I don’t get all the incredible hate for this movie;
and I’ve read a lot of it today. Did you really think you were going to see “The Seventh Seal” or “La Strada”?
sure the critics hated it, but the most of the posts I’ve read on Twitter of people that actually saw the movie seem to have really liked it.
you know good and well that every single one of those critics that slammed this movie mercilessly knew EXACTLY who the core audience it was made for were.
and it wasn’t them.
I’m sure Disney will enjoy the 30 million dollars it makes this weekend.
and the actual Miley fans will love every second of it.

ed on March 31, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Its a romantic tearjerker after all… some are good, some are horrible. Its painful being reminded of the loss of a parent for no good reason. Who wants to relive that. Movies and TV shows are after all, an escape from reality. People want to see a perfect world and happily ever after. That’s what they pay the ten bucks and give up two hours of their lives for. And a critic’s opinion is worth as much as yours or mine. Not every one sees the same things in a movie and whether you love it or hate is a consequence of your own reaction to it.

NormanF on April 1, 2010 at 6:25 am

I might be missing something here, but what’s the matter with seeing a movie that is sad? Does EVERYTHING need to be loaded with macho action, wisecracks, and sarcasm? I think it’s good for Hollywood to make kids movies that aren’t completely sugarcoated with sunshine and happiness. I may just see this movie now, as I am sick and tired of the aforementioned garbage common with blockbusters these days. And oh yes, a family film without curse words or sex scenes is a good thing. (OF COURSE IT IS!)

But in a way, I was expecting this to happen. Just tell the public a film stars Miley, and people start lashing out their hatred towards it. Surely, there are worse things in this industry to complain about, like that new 3D monstrocity that just hit the cinemas.

Ken on April 1, 2010 at 10:57 pm

I liked, “A Walk to Remember”, the story seemed fresh then, and once I like a movie, it seems that I can watch it again and again. But following the same theme over and over gets tedious.

Dave on April 2, 2010 at 12:52 pm

I saw Last Song today and, like you, Debbie, did not enjoy it. I am sort of a fan of romantic melodrama and weepies, so it wasn’t the maudlin content that bothered me (especially considering it was a Sparks film and that’s his specialty). If anything, it wasn’t sad *enough* for my taste (I’m thinking here of the wishy-washy ending tacked onto the end, for example). What bothered me more were the shallow characters, uninteresting dialogue, and teen-centered wisdom of the film. I’m also not a great fan of Kinnear since he switched his screen persona from that of a laughable cipher (Mystery Men, Auto Focus) to beta-male martyr who shows pluck and liberal fortitude in bad situations (Little Miss Sunshine, Flash of Genius).

Burke on April 2, 2010 at 10:13 pm

It’s doing quite well at the box office. Was only expected to make $20,000,000 this weekend (the production budget) and has already racked in closer to 30 million! Great job Miley and the entire cast!

Reality Strikes on April 4, 2010 at 4:30 pm

I saw the movie tonite. I liked it ok, but I just don’t care for Miley Cyrus. I did not go see it because of her, but because of the author.

Gogi on April 8, 2010 at 3:57 am

someone sounds bitter….

jalyn on April 11, 2010 at 11:35 pm

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