This recap originally appeared on GFY on Oct 20, 2011. The Last Song hit theaters exactly ten years ago today — March 31, 2010 — and I’m republishing it in honor of this dubious milestone. Spoiler: I… did not like this movie. Enjoy the flashback to a crankier time.
You may recall The Last Song as being the movie that mush novelist Nicholas Sparks wrote specifically for Miley Cyrus and her supposedly sparkling acting talent (read: screaming tween fan base that likes to see films over and over in the theater). As such, there is a lot of Attitude and Illness and Metaphorical Salvation and whatnot. This movie has been kicking around on my DVR for MONTHS now. I meant to do it when Liam Hemsworth was announced as Gale in The Hunger Games, then when pictures of him in that role were released, and then just… in general. But I couldn’t bring myself to watch it again and confront this:
There is so much of all three of these facial expressions in this movie. Remember Joey Tribbiani’s patented Smell The Fart acting — aka, anything you’ve ever seen John Black do on Days of our Lives? There is a lot of that here. Well, that, or the part of Georgia where they shot this is a melange of curious smells. But I’m disinclined to blame Georgia. I don’t think it’s Georgia’s fault that Miley copes with [insert Sparksian plot twists here] by imagining that she stuck her face in a carton of old milk.
Okay, gird your loins. We’re diving into this thing. Hold me.
We begin with nebulous shots of a fire, and before you get excited that I am actually recapping that episode of Dynasty where Claudia lit her hate candles and accidentally burned down La Mirage, it is actually a church. And those are firefighters dragging some dude out of the flaming wreckage. The next thing we see is a lot of nice coastline, and then our girl Miley:
No, the shot wasn’t this artsy — my camera caught that moment where it was jumping between frames (I get these a lot) and I liked it. Pouty Miley + Reconstructed Church of Fire. I’m sure Nicholas Sparks would find this deeply symbolic, like, her soul is the church and it’s been BURNED and now it’s REBUILDING and… wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Miley is in the car with her brother — who acts the shit out of this movie in a way that ought to embarrass the two leads — and her mother. If I held a knife to your neck and said, “Guess who plays Miley’s mother in this coming-of-age movie or else I will tattoo the word SHELLO on your jugular,” you would probably get it right:
Yes, it’s Kelly Preston. Of course. It all just somehow makes sense. Miley is in the back there making sure we understand that she is on this trip under duress, and the little brother is gazing at Kelly Preston and thinking, “I remember you from What A Girl Wants. How come Amanda Bynes isn’t in this movie?” And he’s right. Amanda Bynes really should be in this movie. In fact, with Amanda Bynes in this movie, it might have been halfway to good. Because Amanda Bynes can pout with adorable feeling. Miley just pouts like someone just punched her in the mouth.
This particular face is in aid of convincing us that she’s really angry to be spending the summer at a beach house in a beautiful part of the country, because she hates her father.
Greg Kinnear spends this whole movie trying really hard to get his forehead to do whatever Miley’s is doing. But I think he’s really just having a wild inner monologue at all times about what the hell he’s even doing here: “Dude, she didn’t even wash her hair? Let’s just do this and then go get a martini.”
The source of the animosity: Greg left the family years ago when he and Kelly split up, and Miley was so angry she destroyed his piano with a baseball bat. No, really. So they’ve been estranged and she ignored all his letters and basically gave him the theoretical bitchface that she can now give to him in person every day of their ill-fated summer together. It’s at this point that we know SOMEONE is going to die, because Nicholas Sparks would never end an estrangement without death. It’s just not proper. The OTHER piece of backstory we get is that he taught Miley the piano, and she was a prodigy who played Carnegie when she was seven, but hasn’t touched one since she went all Albert Pujols on his. And yet she somehow got into Julliard. Without playing. Because she is drizzled with awesomesauce. Maybe THAT is why she isn’t washing her hair — she doesn’t want to lose any of it.
Greg and the little brother bond immediately over a stained-glass window from Our Holy Lady of Arson that he is restoring, at which point the moppet explains that Miley hates him. Greg furrows his brow some more, as if he can’t remember why he is here. Rather than hang out with them hashing out all her emotional issues and advancing the plot too quickly, Miley goes walking on the beach in her jeans and combat boots, and we can tell she is Not Like The Other Girls because The Other Girls give her a look that says, “You are Not Like Us.”
I mean, Miley is, like, BRUNETTE, and wears NECKLACES, and stuff. The horror. So as Miley tromps along sucking down a sullenly purchased strawberry milkshake, glaring like a piece of rotten seaweed has just crawled down her blouse, she bumps smack into something that knocks it all over her. That something is this:
This is Liam Hemsworth, and this is the expression he makes through 90 percent of this movie. He greets every plot twist with a mix of amusement, confusion, and vacant good humor. It’s like his version of Blue Steel, except it’s supposed to have depth of feeling. Blue Feel.
By contrast, Miley greets them all with lemon-sucking sourface:
She is super cross that he bumped into her, and when he jokes and apologizes — admittedly somewhat cockily, as if he can charm her pants off just by standing there because he’s a half-naked beach volleyball player after all, and that’s totally how Maverick would have acted — she snaps something about how uncool it is to hit on her. Let’s review: Our heroine’s main personality traits are rudeness, glumness, temper, disinterest in hygiene, violence against musical instruments, and arrogance. Are we rooting for her yet? It’s a bad sign when I’m watching this movie and going, “Maybe SHE will be the one who dies! YES! That would mean she’s not IN the whole thing!”
Anyway, Liam Hemsworth greets her accusation that his loins are inflamed for her by cackling, “Are you SERIOUS? HAHAHAHA,” and then he leaves and has sex with some other girl and the movie ends. … No? Are we sure? Okay. Actually, he decides that her spunky attitude and appalling hair and powerful sense of smell set her apart from all the other bikini babes. Miley stomps off to marinate some more in her own misery…
… and Liam just gazes after her like, “What just happened? Did someone say ‘cut’ yet? Wait, did someone say ‘action’ yet either?”
Down the beach, while buying a new shirt that isn’t milkshake-stained, Miley meets Blaze, a local who is clearly rough-and-tumble and who wants to shoplift the clothes. Miley is like, “Been there, done that, got busted for it.” She is troubled. TROUBLED.
Blaze has red hair, of course, because nobody in the world named Blaze has raven hair. (I should point out, though, that she does say her real name is… wait for it… Galadriel. And that’s how IMDb lists it, even though nobody uses that word for the rest of the movie.) Galadriel-Blaze also has boyfriend who is kind of scummy.
You can tell these people are Trouble because a) GaladrielBlaze’s tights are made of a Black Widow’s webbing and are actually more hole than material, so it’s not so much wearing tights as wearing legs; and b) her boyfriend drinks under bridges. We actually encounter him a bit earlier, playing with fire at the boardwalk. So, his girlfriend’s name is GaladrielBlaze, and he plays with fire. And then they drink AT a bonfire. I hope it also turns out that they edited out the part where he has gonorrhea, just because it seems like his crotch should be on fire as well, to keep it thematically real. This guy apparently used to hang out with Liam and they’d all get Up To No Good, but Liam has moved past that, so after GaladrielBlaze breaks up a verbal skirmish between Skeeve and Liam, she drags Miley off with them to their little drinking hovel. But not before Liam is all:
Back under the bridge, GaladrielBlaze gets up to fetch drinks for everyone and Skeeve uses the opportunity to hit on Miley. Her follicular awesomesauce must be extremely potent. GaladrielBlaze notices this and gets angry, and Miley just gets up and goes home and then catches Greg Kinnear playing the piano. Outside the house, she closes her eyes and gets all wistful for a second, as if she can smell freshly baked bread, and then she walks inside and gives him her best “Your moldy sourdough stinks” face.
What ensues is a squabble in which she insists he stop playing or else she will leave — and inexplicably he DOES; personally, I’d have broken into “Heart and Soul” or “Chopsticks” and then tossed her the car keys — and then we are reminded again that she thinks he abandoned them and is a crappy father and blah blah blah never go up against a Cyrus when DEATH is on the line.
Miley then goes to wash her face, taking especial care not to get any sweet, cleansing water on her greasepile. Thank God for THAT. I suspect we’re meant to look at her here and think, “Aw, she’s not so bad, she’s just a mixed-up kid.” But just in case you missed that, the movie throws in another little metaphor for you. See, one day, Miley walks down the beach, and she sees a raccoon digging into the sand and snacking on these:
Those are ping-pong balls, which has meaning because Miley hasn’t picked up a ping-pong paddle since her father left. Wait, no, sorry, they’re actually sea turtle eggs.
Greg is all, “Wuh? We’re not really going there, are we?” Yes, Greg. We are.
Miley decides she has to protect the turtle fetuses from certain death, so she grabs whatever she can find and builds them a shelter. They leave out the scene where it’s revealed that she just walked up the beach and stole the accommodations of some dude who lives on the beach, and he cuts out her heart of gold with a shard from a cracked sea turtle egg.
“Yeeeeeah, that would’ve been a better movie, though…” But we’re not in a better movie, Greg. We’re in this one.
So, Miley calls the local Aquarium, or animal control, or whatever — both? They’re kind of the same here? I don’t know — and then decides to go out and get a book about sea turtles, which she reads at a local joint where she is likely to bump into people who want to hit on her. And sure enough, when Liam sees her from across the room, he’s all:
And he goes to talk to her, even though his blonde man friend is like, “You KNOW who her father is, DON’T YOU?!?” Drama! Liam’s friendly chat is greeted with more presumption by Miley, who assumes again that he just wants to Get Into Her Julliard, nudge-nudge, and gives him this face:
And he’s like:
Miley catches another raccoon trying to eat her cadre of precious turtle babies — much like how the world, and its dark emotions, try to eat at her preciously cocooned soul of glory — and so she sleeps outside with a baseball bat. You would think Greg Kinnear would make sure there are no baseball bats or other makeshift bludgeons in his house, given Miley’s history of inflicting blunt force trauma when she’s in a snit, but he must have figured it would come in metaphorically useful.
When Miley wakes up, my favorite thing in the entire movie happens: She sees Liam gazing down at her, all Blue Feel, and he asks if she slept out there all night. She replies something to the effect of, “No, I just did my hair like this ON PURPOSE.”
GIRL. IT LOOKS THE SAME AS IT LOOKS IN EVERY OTHER SCENE. In fact, it looks BETTER than it looks in half the other scenes. Oh, how I laughed. So did Liam:
He apparently volunteers at the aquarium and is there to check on the turtle eggs and set up a proper shelter for them. He teases Miley about sleeping outside with a baseball bat and she whacks him in the head with it and then buries him inside the reconstructed piano. The End.
Sorry, sorry: What really happens is she basically tells him he’s not man enough to sleep out there with the raccoons and he stands there looking terribly amused and kind of afraid, so much so that he neglects to ask her why she had to accessorize in order to spend the night on a lawn chair next to Crusty Jim’s stolen shopping cart.
And now we get to Boring Contrivance wherein GaladrielBlaze (whom you might recognize now has blonde hair for her role on Suburgatory)(2020 update: More people now know Carly Chaiken from Mr. Robot) spies Miley at a random music store and picks a fight about how she saw Miley and Skeeve. Miley tells her she’s crazy, although I don’t see how that’s possible:
That eyeliner oozes movie sanity. GaladrielBlaze goads Miley to chase her out of the store, at which point we learn that Miley has an unpurchased CD in her bag. GaladrielBlaze gloats about it from across the street — she planted it there, knowing Miley would get caught and it’d be her second strike. That’s actually kind of smart, GaladrielBlaze. Your knowledge of the intricacies of law enforcement indicate that you will be an excellent ne’er-do-well someday. Aim high! Like, cat burglary, or something.
Greg drives Miley home from the police station, and she is so angry that nobody believes she was innocent that she immediately packs her bag and causes a ruckus on her head.
Her little brother gives her a look that says, “DEAR GOD WHAT IS THAT THING?”
Miley, despite acting deeply resentful and assy ever since she arrived, is annoyed nobody believes in her even though she did shoplift in New York and has been a complete asshead this whole time. Greg decides she’s probably telling the truth, because he has looked around the room and he notices several things he does not want destroyed with a broom handle. Miley decides not to hate him; Greg mentally congratulates himself for surviving this by making as little effort as possible.
That night, as Miley is reading Anna Karenina by the stars — no, seriously; also, Tolstoy is the laziest way to ascribe intellectual depth to a character who otherwise displays none — Liam arrives to rock her world.
They banter dumbly for a while — he pretends to speak Russian; it’s super doofy but he’s cute so it kind of passes — and then they read by lantern while shooting sidelong glances at each other.
He actually tells her that he stopped by because the town voted and decided it couldn’t handle any more of her bad hair days. I may have laughed out loud, both because that is a worthy insult laced with truth, and also, that poor town should never be so optimistic as to assume they can stop anything that powerful. Greg is watching from the balcony and eventually pops by to make sure their deck chairs aren’t too close together, because he would prefer that her terrible hair be due to sloth and general disinterest in hygiene, as opposed to The Sex. And I’m guessing Crusty Jim comes to reclaim his shopping cart and see if anyone’s interested in a three-way, but they cut that scene.
The next morning, Liam feels like they have really bonded and can start fresh.
And how could he resist asking Miley out on a proper date?
I mean, she brushed her hair and everything. That’s a once-in-a-century event, although she does appear to have just caught a whiff of something malodorous so perhaps they should both scrub off first after spending a night out by the beach. … No? Okay, fine, let’s go straight to Liam’s place of work. Because if there’s one thing this aquarium probably appreciates, it’s having the 18-year old volunteer employee shimmy unclean into one of its wet suits and then dive in to feed the fish from the salt scrapings of the overnight sea-air crust that has frosted his cheeks.
While romancing his girlfriend. And you know the OTHER thing that aquarium totally wanted?
To have the aforementioned filthy volunteer drag his non-wetsuit-clad date, similarly basted in a scum layer but without any protective gear, into the sanctity of their fish tank. Those poor marine creatures just got poisoned by a Cyrus cocktail. So Liam gets fired and then drowns himself in this little enclave and the town puts up a sign that says, “HERE LIES LIAM. THIS’LL LEARN YOU.”
Sigh. Still no. Did NOBODY give Nicholas Sparks any notes?
Anyway, Miley and Liam then go to the beach, where Miley is suddenly wearing a belly shirt, and runs into a townie blonde whom we’ve seen slobbering over Liam before.
She tells Miley that Liam is a himbo slut who hooks all his summer flings by taking them swimming in the aquarium. If this is public knowledge, it’s strange to me that he still has a job. So Miley, of course, storms off acting like she just inhaled stale seafood, forcing Liam to chase after her and show up at her door wondering where the hell she went.
Miley’s teeth let him have it — she is TOO SPECIAL to read Tolstoy with some boyish ho — and Liam is so touched that she at least changed clothes since their morning escapade (seriously, how long did he wait to come find her?) that he cannot control his ardor.
This leads to a montage of all the fun these two crazy kids have. I hope you’re emotionally ready to come along on this ride.
They make out in the ocean! (Memo to Sparks: Missed shark attack opportunity.)
They lie on the beach while he makes a corpse outline of her limp form with seashells. (Memo to Sparks: Would have been much more moving post-shark-attack.)
He gets her a wet suit so she can swim with the fishes! (Memo to Sparks: Missed opportunity to have Miley swim with the fishes, nudge-nudge.)
They sit in truck flatbeds that apparently used to carry sand, fertilizer, and toxic pool chemicals. (Memo to Sparks: Missed opportunity to give kids a PSA about how if you have The Sex in the back of a truck that hasn’t been washed since 1982, you could die young of Genital Poisoning.)
Liam is really happy.
He even doodles on her Converse.
Nothing says forever like writing a “forever” in Sharpie on somebody’s dirty shoes, although if I were Miley, I would be concerned that his lack of even ONE capital letter means he is not fully committed to this. Especially because it’s so nonspecific. In like six months he can be like, “Oh, you thought I meant US? I just meant, ‘This word will be here forever,’ and, ‘Converse will be around forever,’ and, ‘My handwriting will look like a 14-year old girl’s forever.'” Also, this is totally the cover of a YA book. If Judy Blume ever decides to update and reissue Forever (translation: please remove the main dude’s stupid mustache), I hope this is what she goes with.
Naturally, what’s next is that Liam’s truck gets stuck in mud, and it turns into a mud fight, so they have to go back to his house to hose off. That’s when we get a random scene where Maroon 5 comes on in the truck and Miley sings along. Liam is all, “WOW, YOU CAN REALLY SING,” because the movie producers were probably like, “We need to remind people that this character has Hidden Depths, and also, you don’t put Hannah Montana in a movie and not let her do bad karaoke.” In fact, in that sense, I admire their restraint in not having one of their dates be at a karaoke bar, in front of all the townies who will suddenly be all impressed by her talent and depth of feeling. It’s also one of those things where, in real life, you do not say, “Oh, hey, I like this song,” turn it up marginally, and then BELT IT OUT at the top of your lungs, unless you were pretty sure you were about to blow the other person’s mind with your coolness. So she’s showing off. Which… There is basically nothing this movie can do to make me like Miley’s character, is what I’m learning. CERTAINLY not a Maroon 5 addiction.
To hose off the mud, they go to Liam’s house. It is a mansion. And after Miley smell-the-rotting-seafood acts her amazement at the size of it, they are confronted by this lady:
You might recognize her as Ellen Tigh from Battlestar Galactica, but if you’re me, you know her as Benny from Pretty In Pink, a.k.a. James Spader’s bitchy girlfriend in that movie. This character is totally who Benny grew up to be — married to an older man with money, razor-sharp cheekbones, cranky attitude, hates paupers. Miley is no exception. This is not aided by the fact that when Miley sits down to a meal with them — wearing a borrowed dress from Liam’s sister — she acts like a moron. The mom is outwardly mean to her, and yet when they ask about her college plans, she marble-mouths something about how she’s not sure. And she’s not going. And she doesn’t know.
When, in fact, what she SHOULD have done in the face of Benny’s snobbery is jump up and shout, “Well, I’m a child prodigy who got into Julliard because they are BEGGING FOR ME even though I haven’t played the piano in years because I have daddy issues,” and then blown their minds by banging on the grand piano you know they have in something they refer to as The Great Room and which is caked in dust because nobody plays it and the cleaning lady is taking her chances.
And when she finds out that Liam’s sister is getting married in a few weeks, instead of refusing to give these people the satisfaction and pretending she knew all about it, Miley glowers at Liam and says, “No, I don’t think you DID TELL ME ABOUT THAT, LIAM,” and seems like a big giant baby. This girl has GOT to learn about how to roll with it in front of snooty assholes. It’s the hallmark of any good fish-out-of-water movie (although this clearly is NOT that movie). It’s like, we’re waiting and waiting and WAITING for this girl to show us a spark of something that explains why Liam likes her, other than her ability to breathe almost solely through her mouth. Standing up to his rude parents would be good, although stringing together a coherent sentence in front of them would’ve sufficed.
Miley and Liam stomp out down his family’s personal pier and to their gazebo, because there is never a movie like this in a small beach town that DOESN’T have a gazebo. She snits that she’s FINE with him being ashamed to take her to his sister’s wedding (YOU HAVE BEEN DATING FOR AN HOUR) with a bunch of people she doesn’t know (EXACTLY) because his perfect rich family doesn’t need Her Kind (um, your dad has an OCEANFRONT HOUSE, girl; you’re doing fine). And so he decides it’s time to tell her deep truths about who he is.
You know what? No. I’m going to show you what he ACTUALLY did.
Tell me that doesn’t scream, “I’m going to cowboy up and ride you into the sunset of my Important Backstory.” It’s something about how miserable his parents are because of his tragically dead brother and they want him to go to Vanderbilt even though HE wants to go to Columbia and zzzzzzzzzzzzz first-world problems.
Miley listens patiently, ignoring the fact that bees have apparently impregnated her lower lip, and then forgives him when he says he wants her to come to the wedding. They profess their love, and then Miley decides to bring him into her metaphorical vagina.
Et voila: The Great Room. This movie would have won me right here, right now, if Liam had been like, “Finally, someone who will understand my respect for the mighty harp,” and pulled it over for a classical duet. Instead, he just moons over her. Boring. Miley comes home and is all cheerful and sweetness and light.
Greg Kinnear is like, “Huh, I’m still here. Are you sure you need me, or can I just take my check and go?” We need you, Greg. No one has died yet. She pretends to ask him for fatherly advice about being in love, and he pretends to say something — I seriously have no idea what it was. I don’t think it was even advice. I think she was just like, “I, like, more than like him. I LIKE-like him. I like-like-LIKE him, like him,” and Greg is all, “Yippee, don’t get pregnant,” except without the pregnant part, because he has read the script and he knows that doesn’t happen.
Next up, Maverick and Goose decide to play some beach volleyball with Iceman and Slider. (I just realized that if he were like five or ten years younger, Rick Rossovich might’ve made an amusing Brick Berlin. I can totally see him saying, “Cancer is a vicious thief,” can’t you?) Miley is in the stands watching these two guns who, though not top, are adequate. The blonde girl from before is sitting behind Miley, and starts mouthing off about how Miley’s father is an arsonist. After Mav and Goose competently gun their way through the Crocs-sponsored volleyball segment (which would have been more amusing if everyone had suddenly started wearing them and referring to them in unnatural ways like, “Miley, your hair scared the Crocs of me” or “Baby, give me your Croc so I can forever it up, WITH caps”), Miley randomly forgets all about the arsonist remark until she gets a wedding invitation in the mail from Liam. She runs to tell Greg about it, and he’s sitting in the church, all melancholy, and she asks him if he burned it down. He sadly admits he did — he was playing the piano there, he lit some candles, he was on medication that made him drowsy, he fell asleep, etc. Miley flips out at the word “medication” and Greg insists he’s fine. Which is Sparksian for, “I’m going to die in half an hour.”
Miley does her best thinking between banister slats, so she smells them for a little while and then laments to Liam that her father says he did it and everyone thinks he’s a crazy arsonist. Liam hugs her and thinks.
Here he is saying, with his eyes, “If I release a single, it’s going to be called ‘Girl, Your Hair Smells Like Gym Shoes,’ and this will be the cover.” That taken care of, Liam goes to his other job as a mechanic with Goose and tells Goose they need to come clean about the fire. Goose insists his life will be ruined if they say anything.
Now Liam is thinking, “The B-side is going to be, ‘Girl, My Dirty Shirt Is Cleaner Than My Conscience (And Your Hair).” This release is going to be epic.
Across town, or across the street possibly, Miley is going to buy a dress to wear to the wedding of the hour. And it’s at this point that I really started to believe that the people shooting this movie hated Miley Cyrus.
That is not okay. She LOOKS like she’s standing in the middle of a garbage dump with the sun in her eyes.
What she’s really doing is standing in a parking lot watching GaladrielBlaze’s boyfriend mistreat her and then kick her out and leave. So Miley takes the wad of cash for her party dress and gives it to GaladrielBlaze. She should have kept it for a hair appointment, because how is it POSSIBLE that GaladrielBlaze’s hair looks better than Miley’s, when GaladrielBlaze is crying in the street and makes out with her boyfriend under piers and stuff?
Seriously, THIS IS BAD. Why was nobody on Hair Terror Watch when they made this movie? Maybe it was calculated. Maybe it was so — after Miley gets her little brother to loan him all his money and they go on the world’s shortest and lamest shopping montage — we would be blown away by the transformation at the wedding:
Liam certainly was.
Just kidding, I promise we’re done with that. Here is what happened:
He’s like, “THIS is the cover of my album, called ‘Damn, Girl, I Blue-Feel You.'”
And in fairness to Miley, she does look very nice here. I mean, nicer. And they lit her better. And shot her more lovingly. Seriously, some of the shots in this movie constitute serious Videography of Hate.
Contrivance and Yawn — I mean, Skeeve and GaladrielBlaze — get into a fight because she suddenly somehow has a catering job in which she has to wear a hat like a marshmallow, and he decided to storm the castle and tell her she has to get back together with him. Liam runs over to try and take out the trash, and right when all the guests come running over to watch, Skeeve announces he wants Miley instead because she looks like a fun warm body for summer. Liam punches Skeeve and he leaves in his pickup.
Benny stares after Skeeve, hormones surging, then she blames this whole show on GaladrielBlaze (directly) and Miley (indirectly) and orders Liam to get them the hell out of there. It’s a good thing she did, too — maybe Benny is egg-psychic, because those sea turtles? The Rescued Eggs of Miley’s Metaphorical Rebirth Into A Functioning, Marginally Pleasant Person? They are hatching.
Aw, little guys. You’re a stupid subplot but I can’t stay mad at you. See you on the E.A.C., dudes.
But, what ho!
We have a man down! I repeat, Greg Kinnear is down! And not just emotionally. He collapsed. We are at the Death Point of this type of movie — in Here On Earth, we would be at the point where the vicious knee cancer knocked down Leelee Sobieski while she was running, and in That Mandy Moore Movie Where She And Shane West Look Exactly Alike But Are Romantically Involved, we would be at the point where the little angel child who dies starts to lose her oomph. You know this part. It’s the part where you’re supposed to cry accidentally and then feel gross about yourself for allowing this thing to make you feel something. The nice thing about The Last Song, though, is that it won’t allow that to happen. It has inserted something that makes it impossible to feel sad in this moment. What is it? Here:
Miley. Barefoot. IN A HOSPITAL. She’s pacing around in front of her father’s room — not even in the waiting area; IN THE ACTUAL HOSPITAL HALLS — without wearing any shoes. Technically she’s not wearing a shirt, either; does that mean Greg Kinnear is going to get no service? But for real, that has to be hella unsanitary. But instead of telling Miley to stop courting disease, the nurse sits down next to her and tells her that “the cancer has spread to his lungs,” and Greg is going to die. Big-time. No half-assed dying; this is for real.
Miley responds to this information by having a stroke:
At least, I assume that’s what this shot is telling me. It’s very distracting. How very like Miley to steal Greg’s disease surprise by having one of her own. Except really, she’s just angry Greg didn’t tell them he had the cancer, and he’s all, “Well, UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE, I didn’t want everything this summer to be ALL ABOUT ME,” and she’s like, “Well, UNLIKE SOME PEOPLE, I am only dying inside because of my own hangups about abandonment.”
And he’s like, “Unlike SOME PEOPLE, I am only in this movie because I needed to pay the bills after starring in that flop, He Invented Windshield Wipers And Got Hosed.” Miley agrees this is a really tragical twist of fate for Greg, and they hug and make up and decide to love each other through the pain. And while they cope with Greg’s impending doom, Miley’s brother teaches Liam how to restore a stained glass window, and on the way home from the hospital, they pull Greg over at the church and voila:
Greg is touched. Liam is like, “Man, I’m going to write a song called ‘Loving Each Other Through The Pain (The Stained Glass Is Half Empty).'”
After this heady moment of contemplation, Liam convinces his blond friend that they need to come clean to Greg so that he doesn’t die thinking he set the fire. They confess to Greg that Blond Friend — not Liam, in fact — was horsing around with Skeeve and his fireballs of idiocy, and they accidentally set the church ablaze and ran, and didn’t know Greg was inside. Greg thinks about this for a second and then decides that he doesn’t care if he dies with people thinking he’s an arsonist, even an accidental one; he’d rather let Blond Friend start fresh with a clear conscience and make better choices. That’s very nice of him. I guess all those failures with windshield wipers have made him very philosophical. But Miley has a dimmer view of all this.
She can smell the lies, and they smell like smoked rat. Enraged that Liam knew the truth but let her father think he was guilty for so long, she kicks him out of her life and brazenly tells him to go to the school his parents picked for him (Vanderbilt, probably fairly unhappy to have been dragged into this) and have a nice life and she WON’T wish him a great summer and she WON’T see him next year and she doesn’t CARE if he stays sweet and doesn’t ever change. She has signed his emotional yearbook in POISONED PEN.
Kelly Preston comes to pick up the kids, because the first thing you do when you find out your ex is dying of cancer is force him to say a speedy goodbye to his children, and Miley refuses to go. She’d rather help Greg die. In a supportive way, not a Kevorkian way.
GREG: Great. They left. That’s…. that’s just great.
MILEY: Yep. It’s just me and you and my necklaces, Greg.
GREG: How is this movie not over yet? Couldn’t I have died back in the hospital scene?
Miley spends her days not brushing her hair, and reading all the returned-to-sender letters she found in her dad’s house, which he had sent her and she’d refused to accept. Further, she reads them in really sensible places, like a locked car parked in her driveway on a rainy day — I mean, I know when I want a moment alone with Sports Illustrated, that’s where I go. Greg eventually sits Miley down and tells her that he’s sure Liam misses her terribly. “I doubt it,” she snarks. And then Greg “Best Actor In A Shitstorm” Kinnear delivers the line that wins him that prestigious award, telling Miley that she is the most beautiful, kind, generous, wonderful, golden awesome slice in the entire world.
And that is how the movie illustrated it: with a photo in which her smell-o-vision acting dial is set to, “Your breath smells like corpse rot.”
This keys a montage of her helping him through his day — walking with him, flipping pancakes…
… starring in a Cialis commercial…
… and her finally playing the piano for him again, choosing to finish the song he had been trying to compose before his hands hurt too much to continue. She plays and plays, and it’s very slow and kind of boring and depressing — which fits, actually, because there’s no sense in writing Miley an upbeat song when she’s been such a massive pill — and then she finishes it in a triumph, and peers out to the balcony to see what Greg thinks.
What he thinks is, “Listening to this make me want to die.” So he does. Her music killed him. She played him to death.
Miley cries over spilled water (“Oh, God. Think of the wood rot!”) and is very sad and calls Kelly Preston and sits on stairs staring mournfully into middle distance. Which I respect. I did a lot of that when my Dad died, although without the stairs. I totally did obviously call Kelly Preston — wouldn’t you? Anyway, since Miley publicly hated Greg for such a long time, she’s the natural choice to give his eulogy at the Church of Everyone Still Thinks He Burned It Down. And just as she’s about to do her business…
… a sunbeam passes through his stained-glass window. “Hi Daddy,” she says, although I think he was just trying to avenge the Death By Music by giving her a sunburn. Then she sits down to play her murder piano. “We’re all going to die!” someone screams, and everyone evacuates the church as fast as they can. The End.
Actually, the funny thing about this funeral is, EVERYONE IS THERE. Everyone in this town who thinks he set fire to the church, even by accident, decided to show up and look sad — even the ones who hate Miley.
Liam’s parents are there, thinking about how sad it is that this man they never met, who sired the worst thing ever to happen to their family, is dead.
GaladrielBlaze is there, thinking that this man she never met really should not have died before teaching Miley how to use a hairbrush.
Liam is there, thinking about how he’s going to write a song called, “88 Keys Of Hurt.”
And Blond Friend is thinking that this dude he barely knew, yet who is the only person aware of who actually started the fire, was really considerate to die before he changed his mind about telling anyone. He’s sitting next to Vindictive Blonde Hussy, who is wondering if funerals are as good as weddings for getting some booty.
Miley sees Liam, but is spending too much time frowning at well-wishers to talk to him. Although maybe he doesn’t want to talk to her, because WHAT:
That’s not hair, that’s a weather-beaten piece of rope she sliced off of somebody’s tree swing. YOUR DAD DIED. DO YOUR HAIR. I eulogized mine, too, and you can be damn sure my hair didn’t look like it spent the last five days mooring a boat to the dock. Miley’s brother can’t even look at her. He’s like, “Gym class flashbacks. No thanks.” Miley doesn’t get a chance to talk to Liam, and he vanishes, so her heart warms up like a microwaved chicken nugget when she comes home to her father’s empty house and sees Liam waiting for her at the beach. Imagine all the complex emotions one would feel in this moment: grief, yearning, confusion, regret, hope.
Liam eschews ALL of them in favor of treating this scene like he is watching an episode of South Park. Parenthetically, this movie would make for an EXCELLENT episode of South Park.
In the end, Liam announces he’s quitting Vandy to go to Columbia so he can be with Miley — who is going to Julliard, because they want her SO BADLY that not only were they going to accept her without any kind of audition, but they were going to hold a place for her even though the school year started a long time ago. Greg Kinnear is still dead. Kelly Preston went back home to Amanda Bynes and Colin Firth, and raised Miley’s little brother with the older sister he SHOULD have had. Seriously, this movie had a limp plot, an unlikable lead character, a subplot (Blaze) that went nowhere but which I felt like I had to include because it led to the only reason Miley started acting like a civilized human toward her father, and a cute little brother who knew how to cry. In other words, this TOTALLY should have been an Amanda Bynes vehicle, because it needed an actress who could’ve carried it with a little charisma. since it didn’t get any help from anyplace else.
Fuggery: 7 out of 10. The clothes weren’t good, but they were also budgetarily appropriate for the story. If she’d trotted around looking like Blair Waldorf it would’ve been incredibly confusing. However, THAT HAIR. No. No, no, no. No.
Fromage: 8 out of 10. Random scene where Miley sings in a car, shopping montage, kissing montage, mud fight montage, baby sea turtles, snobby rich parents, snobby beach regulars, ne’er-do-well townies, arson, cancer… do I need to go on?
F*ckwittery: 5 out of 10. Not a lot of what they do is stupidly motivated — you WOULD try to make your kid get along with her father, especially if she is a Lost Soul Who Shoplifts — but the Julliard thing was insane to me. Also, Miley really needs to take a class in When People Turn Up Their Noses At You, Rub Those Noses In Your Talent.
Overall: 6 out of 10. It wasn’t so hilariously crap that I think you need to run out and watch it (like Country Strong or The Client List), but boy, this movie is Not Good. It really FEELS like a hurried rip-off of its own genre, like somebody wrote a parody of a Nicholas Sparks Weepfest and then forgot to tell everyone ELSE that it was a parody. However, if you think I’m kidding about how poorly shot Miley is throughout, then maybe you do need to run right out and watch it so we can discuss.