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Wayback Wednesday: The Last Song (2010)

My last song would definitely be a Miley Cyrus one.

Today is Miley Cyrus’ 30th birthday! Wow, I can’t believe I just typed that. I’ve literally grown up with this woman, being a fan of hers since she starred on Hannah Montana (2006 – 2011) 16 YEARS AGO! In honour of this momentum occasion I, as an enormous fan of the singer / actress, have chosen to review The Last Song (2010), one of the few Cyrus movies that people have actually seen. Speaking of, if anyone out there has seen LOL (2012) or So Undercover (2012) let me know because I would very much like to talk about them with someone. Like Wonders of the World there are only a finite amount of Cyrus movies in existence and next to Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009) – check out my review, here – I consider this one to be the best. I mean, Bolt (2008) is a strong contender as well but when it comes to putting my girl Miley in the spotlight, The Last Song wins hands down. 

Credit: imdb.com / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Based on the Nicholas Sparks novel of the same name, The Last Song tells the story of Ronnie, a rebellious teenager from New York City who is forced to spend the summer with her estranged father in a small town in North Carolina. Through their shared passion for music the two begin to reconnect. As well, Ronnie falls in love for the first time with Will, the last person she ever thought she would fall for.

The first time I read “The Last Song” I absolutely fell in love with it and in the years since, it’s become one of the books I’ve read the most, getting something new out of it with each reread. I normally finish each reread with a viewing of this movie and I have to say that it’s an okay adaptation. It’s not perfect but it’s not abysmal either. First of all, I have to appreciate how awesome it is that Sparks actually got to work on the screenplay. That’s rare when it comes to the adaptation of a novel and I commend the studio for having the courtesy to include him. There are aspects of the book cut out that make sense when you consider the logistical restrictions of making a movie, but then there are elements that could have easily been more fleshed out. Such as how Book Steve (Ronnie’s father) is much more gentle and reserved than Movie Steve. I’m a big fan of Greg Kinnear and I would have loved to see him deliver a more accurate portrayal of Steve. I understand that this movie is a vehicle for Cyrus but I really wouldn’t have been mad at more detail into Steve to show the complexities of his character and his relationship with Ronnie, especially how they reconnect and learn from each other. 

It wasn’t until this viewing that I realized how much I actually like The Last Song. I don’t think it’s perfection but watching it generates a warm, calming feeling in me. There are some really pretty summery sunset shots and with the idyllic beach setting, the movie is wrapped in a romantic, comforting glow. This is very much a movie or story for young people experiencing love for the first time. I think my biggest gripes with The Last Song are the screenwriting and the editing. Neither one successfully transitions the tone of the book to the movie. With the writing for example, the dialogue between Will and Ronnie is much snappier and the conversation between Ronnie and Steve is more profound. The thing about The Last Song is that it has all the elements of a movie that it needs to, it just doesn’t give enough time for things to settle or ruminate, often settling on a montage instead. Every time the movie sets up something that’s leading up to an emotional payoff, the movie doesn’t deliver or inserts a fluffy montage. The only montage I appreciate in this movie is the dressing room montage, one of cinema’s most treasured tropes!

As previously stated, I’m an enormous Cyrus fan. So I can admit that she’s a much better musician than she is an actress (at least when it comes to dramatic roles because when it comes to sitcom comedy, mama slays). I’m fairly certain she’s not interested in returning to movies any time soon, but there’s a part of me that is curious to see the types of movies she would have made and the actress she would have evolved into if she had pursued more complex projects like The Last Song. Being totally unbiased here, I think Cyrus delivers a solid performance as Ronnie! She effortlessly captures the angsty rebellious teen that we’ve all been because while filming she actually WAS one. Cyrus being able to relate so strongly to Ronnie is what makes this performance one of her best. Working on this movie is how Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth met and their infamous on-again, off-again relationship began. That’s how I think she so wonderfully relays the unbridled joy of Ronnie falling in love with Will because of how she was falling in love with Hemsworth in real life. The lovestruck side is what Cyrus pulls off with more ease probably because she’s had more experience playing cheery and romantic than moody and dramatic. Although that scene of Ronnie confronting her dad about his illness in the hospital is undoubtedly the movie’s best and her passionate line delivery is heartbreaking. I tear up every time. Also, major props to Cyrus for learning how to play the piano for this role! 

The Last Song features a lot of good performances hidden in an okay movie. Cyrus and Kinnear are obviously the highlights and Bobby Coleman who plays Ronnie’s younger brother Jonah nails the part perfectly. There’s something very realistic about his performance as this little kid and throughout the movie he’s called upon to deliver some heavy material that he does wonderfully. The only real letdown is Hemsworth as Will in his breakthrough role. Hemsworth is lucky he’s so hot and has a good chemistry with Cyrus because he is not that great an actor. Not terrible, but I doubt he’ll be doing Shakespeare any time soon. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue he’s given or his lack of genuine talent but he comes off as kind of clueless and dead behind the eyes. 

I haven’t seen a TON of Nicholas Sparks movies but The Last Song is my favourite. Sure, it’s less iconic than The Notebook (2004) but it’s also less melodramatic than something like say, The Lucky One (2012). Yes, it may have a boring scene of beach volleyball during which no one will be seated, but there’s also an adorable scene of baby sea turtles scuttling towards the ocean! Kudos to director Julie Anne Robinson for finding the balance in this movie. It’s a shame she couldn’t find that balance in the only other movie she directed,  One for the Money (2012). God, that movie was awful. But hey, at least she’s got one good movie under her belt! Whether you like it or not, being touched by the presence of one Miley Ray Cyrus automatically makes your movie good. 

Have you seen The Last Song? What are your favourite Nicholas Sparks adaptations?

Let me know in the comments or on social media!

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