Then-teen pop star Mandy Moore beat all odds to actually be in a good movie for her cinematic debut, ‘A Walk To Remember.’ At the very least, it had a huge audience and made the facial tissue companies rich (because man people who saw cried profusely, you follow?).
How would her follow up, ‘How To Deal’ fare?
Halley (Moore) is a high school student who is surrounded by dysfunctional relationships. Her mom, Lydia (Allison Janney) is devastated after Len (Peter Gallagher) leaves her for a younger woman. Halley’s big sister, Ashley (Mary Garrison) is getting married to a snobby rich guy who is completely detached from the process. Her best friend Scarlett just found out that she is pregnant by her first love who fell over dead on the soccer field from a heart attack. Perpetual truant Macon (Trent Ford) has his eye on Halley, and she doesn’t quite know how she feels about that.
It is so hard to be a teen!
Teen pregnancy, divorce, marriage, mid-life crises, growing up, drugs, sex, love…this movie has it all! Seriously though, entirely too much ground is covered by this already thin plot. That is what happens when you condense two novels into one lean movie. Besides, very little of this happens directly to Halley, our protagonist. Everyone around her is going through these massive life-changing events while she is merely at the center, witnessing it all. Even her romance with Macon is incredibly vanilla and boring.
Aside from one nifty scene at a dam, a lot of the film has the look and feel of a made for TV movie. Add to that a few jarring montages with a few hit songs of the moment playing over top them and you have a half-hearted production. There are no surprises from a narrative standpoint as things unfurl as you might predict. Even the conflicts that should be a little more devastating are brushed off as minor incidents (except one).
Moore is quite likeable and appropriately cynical as the lead and Janney is a pro. Everyone else is just kind of there. The grandmother, especially, only exists for comic relief. She smokes marijuana! How delightfully irreverent!
Special features include: deleted scenes, commentary, a few featurettes focusing on stars and the novels, music videos a trailer and DVD-Rom content. Okay, that’s quite a lot to fit on one disc.
‘How To Deal’ has a few nice moments and one or two passable performances, but the story is just too filled with undercooked ideas, cliches and abrupt resolutions to be any good. It can be alright to use a structure but not when the end result feels like a movie-by-numbers.
PG-13 101 minutes 2003