Despite repetitive formula and flaws, ‘The Last Song’ is a beautiful melody

Miley Cyrus and Greg Kinnear play a daughter-father pair making amends in their relationship in "The Last Song," based on the Nicholas Sparks novel.

Films based on Nicholas Sparks books are all the same. Although I am no longer a reader-for-pleasure, I know what to expect before I walk into the theater. I expect to take in the scenery of a Southern town, feast my eyes on some hot mancandy, and watch him make out with some cute girl. Oh, and I expect to cry – a lot. Because that’s what Nicholas Sparks does best with his work.

So it’s no surprise that The Last Song lived up to those expectations. What was unexpected was the power that story had, as well as the remarkable and very moving performances by the cast.

The film focuses on two relationships, one of family and one of romance. Veronica “Ronnie” Miller (Miley Cyrus) and her little brother Jonah (Bobby Coleman) are forced to live with their estranged father (Greg Kinnear) for the summer in the beach town of Tybee Island, Georgia. Still resenting her father for her parents’ divorce, Ronnie and her father, a former piano player and teacher, struggle to repair their relationship and do so with their love for music. She also finds love with a local beach volleyball player named Will (Liam Hemsworth), who has issues of his own and with his family, but aren’t explored in-depth in the film.

My main issues with the film were with the lack of exploration of some of the familial issues and Ronnie’s issues and also the sequencing. There were questions that I had that I felt like were never answered, like what exactly led to the parents’ divorce? Were there other factors that led to Ronnie’s rebelliousness at the beginning of the film? As for the sequencing, I felt like it was just a little bit jumpy. Furthermore, even though the movie is supposed to be mostly about the relationship between father and daughter, I think that could’ve been picked up on a little bit more. I mean, Liam Hemsworth is hot and all, so I can’t really complain that he gets a lot of screen time, and the relationship between his character and Cyrus’ was almost as important. But a couple of unnecessary scenes between them could’ve been cut in lieu for more between her and Kinnear’s characters.

Despite all this, The Last Song was an overall enjoyable movie, ultimately heartwrenching (Like all Nicholas Sparks adaptations) as it ends. The main cast members provided many laughs despite the somber storyline, and carried over their emotions to the audience in the darker moments of the film. Lighthearted moments were plenty though. Coleman as the younger sibling was far and away my personal favorite actor in the movie – an extremely lively and caring child, but also splits audience members’ hearts in half as he struggles to understand the dynamics of his broken family. Kinnear is also intense in his comedic and dramatic performances. Leading lady Cyrus is surprisingly beautiful and captivating in a dramatic role that allows her to bring in sarcasm, a mean streak, the funniness associated with but better than Hannah Montana, and a whole lot of heart. Her real-life beau Hemsworth gives what will hopefully be seen as a breakthrough performance.

I think it also helped that I felt a personal connection to an important aspect of the storyline. I’ll leave it at that though. But it was the part that made me cry.

What the film lacked in development was made up for with some incredibly touching storytelling and acting. Yes, Nicholas Sparks may like to feed us the same Southern love stories and tragedies, but this one is definitely worth the taste.

OVERALL SCORE: 7.5/10

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