Movies: The Last Song
Is there a Nicholas Sparks novel that hasn't been turned into a film? In the past few years we've had Message in a Bottle, The Notebook, Nights in Rodanthe, Dear John and now The Last Song, all more or less putrid as it turns out, and so relentlessly slushy you'd need a stout pair of wellingtons to wade your way through them.
Sparks, the extremely successful and inordinately wealthy author of Mills & Boon-style potboilers, tends to specialise in 'faith', hope, tragedy and either doomed or severely thwarted love, and The Last Song has all the aforementioned in bucketloads.
That said, though, this film turns out to be the least putrid of the Sparks adaptations thus far, a hollow boast admittedly, and mainly down to the integrity of some of the performances. Most shocking in this regard is young Miley Cyrus, who puts away her microphone and dancing shoes to turn in a halfway decent characterisation.
She is Veronica 'Ronnie' Miller, the rebellious and indeed obnoxious teenage daughter of parents who have recently separated.
Ronnie seems to blame her dad, Steve (Greg Kinnear) for all this, and so is not best pleased when she's sent to live with him for the summer at his beachhouse in a small Georgia town.
His house sits on the edge of a stunning Atlantic beach, but it might as well be a view of a scrapyard so far as Ronnie is concerned. As soon as she arrives she storms off and leaves her dad alone with her younger brother, Jonah (Bobby Coleman).
Ronnie was once a piano-playing prodigy (oh yes), but since her parents' separation she has refused to even tinkle the ivories in jest, and has just announced she'll be turning down a scholarship at New York's prestigious Juilliard Academy. She's in a right snot in other words, but, wouldn't you know it, old Ronnie is a big softie underneath, and when she meets a winsome hunk (Liam Hemsworth) beachside, her attitude to her father begins to soften.
People get sick in Sparks's stories so that other people can tend to them heroically, and Cyrus will be obliged to run through her Florence Nightingale routine before the credits roll. Full of stock characters and sick-making moments, The Last Song is saved from outright risibility by Kinnear, who forgets he's appearing in the cinematic equivalent of a greeting card inscription and gives us a performance of real emotion and depth.