No one in The Last Song ever utters the word Tybee. Not even once. Oh, someone does mention that the story is unfolding in Georgia, and a little sign about 90 minutes in reads "Tybee Island Baptist Church."
Anyone watching the film in, say, Switzerland, will probably think "Hmm, what a pretty little beach town." But they'll have to sit through to the end credits to see that it's Tybee Island, Georgia.
Chatham County does look beautiful in the movie - the beach at Tybee is inviting, the marshes along U.S. 80 scenic. Wormsloe Plantation gets a lot of screen time.
But hey, this is Miley Cyrus' show. Tybee was used as a backdrop, and the hundreds of area residents who stood around in the hot sun, for take after take, are nothing more than wallpaper. Ten, twelve hours of repetitive work, for a shot that might last for three or four seconds.
Go and watch the film, by all means. But unless you're in the extended, filmed-at-Wormsloe wedding scene, or in the crowd at the pierside volleyball game, don't expect to catch more than a fleeting glimpse of yourself. If that.
The Last Song is, have no doubt, a teenage summer romance crossed with a weepy melodrama - it is clearly intended for adolescents, particularly those who think Cyrus can do no wrong.
Don't believe all the bad press the 17-year-old has been getting for this, her dramatic debut. She has a definite screen presence, albeit a screen presence she doesn't yet know how to channel, and this exercise in predictability could have been a lot worse.
She might want to consider getting her crooked front teeth fixed, however. Forty feet tall, on a movie screen, that sort of stuff is noticeable.
Nicholas Sparks penned the Last Song screenplay as a vehicle for Cyrus; he wrote the novel afterwards, and it shows. The book moves at a leisurely pace, the movie at a brisk clip. Entire subplots, peripheral characters and expository scenes that appear in the novel are not part of the film. Perhaps they should have been, and would have been if Sparks had been given more time to think things through. The book is much better.
Liam Hemsworth, who plays Cyrus' hunky, stand-up boyfriend, has even less range than the erstwhile Hannah Montana. At times, his natural Australian accent slips through - and since his character is supposed to have been born and raised in Georgia, that's a stretch.
Accents, in fact, are a big issue here. Like a lot of big-budget Hollywood movies set in the South, The Last Song features actors who sound as if they've never been here.
In fact, exactly one actor - Nick Searcy, playing the Hemsworth character's father - speaks with a Southern accent. And he has maybe three lines in the whole film.
Greg Kinnear all but steals the entire thing away from Cyrus, and Bobby Coleman, who plays Miley's little brother, has at least one wonderfully moving scene while dealing with an unexpected tragedy.
The Last Song will probably make a lot of money, despite its well-worn plot, wafer-thin characters, occasionally trite dialogue and exploitative use of baby sea turtles. Miley Cyrus will recover from her bad reviews and make another movie. And another one.
The rest of the world deserves to get a good look at beautiful Tybee Island and its environs. Hopefully, The Last Song won't be the last word on that.
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