The Last Song opens with a pouty Miley Cyrus looking underwhelmed at the prospect of spending the summer with her beleaguered father, and it's a somber prospect for the viewer, as well. Miley's effervescent screen presence in 2009's Hannah Montana The Movie is nowhere to be found at the onset of her latest film, the Nicholas Sparks adaptation of his own melodrama novel. Miley is wistful, whiny, and flat out mean, something fans of her Disney Channel show might find alien. Well, it's her first crack at a serious role, a "more mature" part designed to provide at least some distance between her famous small screen persona and her new endeavor of becoming a serious actress.
For the most part, it works…at least for Miley's performance. She has just enough to keep her character Ronnie interesting and engaging, and her natural charisma serves her well even as her inexperience as an actress becomes obvious. It's a solid debut for her; not a star making turn by any means, but also not the embarrassment some were probably hoping for. OK, with that out of the way…
The Plot of The Last Song
Ronnie Miller and her little brother Jonah (effectively played by Bobby Coleman) are spending the summer with dear old dad Steve (Greg Kinnear). Along the way, Ronnie makes a friend, some enemies, and a potential suitor in the form of local rich boy Will Blakelee (hunky Matthew Modine lookalike Liam Hemsworth). During a summer of roller coaster-like ups and downs, Ronnie and Will become closer. However, being a Nicholas Sparks screenplay, the other shoe inevitably drops and tragedy strikes…which may just bring everyone closer.
It's a predictable tearjerker, complete with just about every stock character from these types of films, including the mean and conniving ex-girlfriend and the boyfriend's uppity, judgmental mother. What makes everything kind of work, to the extent that it does, is Greg Kinnear's excellent portrayal of Steve.
Greg Kinnear Shines
It will probably come as no surprise to fans of cinema that Greg Kinnear's performance is worthwhile; after all, he generally turns in good to great roles. What may be surprising (or perplexing) is his presence in this film to begin with. It seems like an odd choice for such a fine actor at this stage in his career.
But no matter. Kinnear flexes his acting muscle as far as the limited screenplay will allow, adding a charm and ease to a story that may otherwise have just laid harmlessly in the Georgia beach sand. He alone keeps the project afloat, and despite his best efforts, even he can't keep the movie from becoming mired down in it's own built-in melodrama and predictability. It teeters wobbly and wearily toward it's inevitable, Kleenex inspiring conclusion.
The Last Song Bottom Line
As a Miley vehicle, her fans will probably not be disappointed. She is credible and retains a nice screen presence throughout, and even gets a chance to sing and play some (impressive) piano. The story will not surprise anyone who's ever seen a movie, but it will probably please most fans of Sparks and some fans of melodrama. It's sufficiently romantic and bittersweet, with Kinnear making the whole affair just a little easier to appreciate.