I actually had decent expectations for this one but found myself cringing throughout most of the film. There's really no goal in this movie. As I contemplated the hollow feeling of having wasted a couple hours watching the film, I switched from passive viewer into active reviewer mode to determine why HTD didn't work on so many levels. First of all, I wanted to empathize with Mandy Moore's character, but there was nothing about her struggles that resonated at all. There was no growth pattern (aka character arc) to be found in her either; she was just a whining, disenchanted stereotype. Moore's character is the caricature of the frustrated teen who doesn't want to risk being loved for fear of getting hurt. Another factor that worked against the film was that they tried to cram too many subplots/characters in, and the main story did not benefit from most of that peripheral crap. Let's see, we had the pregnant girlfried...the doper grandma...the father and his new wife...the mother and her new love interest...Halley's aloof but totally undesirable hippie boyfriend...the sister and her fiance's socio-economic wranglings. It was headache-inducing fare to be sure. Halley's love interest just kept popping up, never with a context or sense of why he was where he was. What did we know about the guy? Nothing. We didn't observe his home life. Didn't really learn his interests. He was simply inserted into different settings (parking lots, stores, backyards, etc.) as though required by movie convention. The few scenes that were probably intended to endear us to the loser, such as the funeral speech scene, were presented pathetically with no emotional weight whatsoever. Third, the lazy writing for this film threw so much over-used tripe at us. For example, you know a film is struggling when they have a dog hump one of the principle character's legs. Also, the dope-smoking grandma seemed such a tired bit as well. After those ridiculous and unfunny insertions, any attempts at serious drama in this schizophrenic film were greatly compromised. Casting and chemistry were certainly some weak points of the film as well. My significant other and I agreed that Mandy Moore did not seem in any way conceivably to be a blood relative to the mother in the film. They looked nothing alike. Granted, this is hard to gauge, but then I started to realize that other films pull this off very well. The lack of character change/growth and of any conceivable end goal also made any attempts to generate a conflict or climax to the film moot. Toward the end when the boyfriend avoids her for a while, it was merely yawn-inducing. This is supposed to be tension? This is supposed to make me concerned? Hardly. The film's efforts toward the end to generate some artificial excitement were particularly cloying and lame. In particular, when the boyfriend forced his way on to the radio station's air waves as though he had to do something desperate and gritty to get Halley's attention, I wondered why he hadn't thought to simply go to her house or call her on the phone. There was no indication that he had made any other more reasonable attempts to contact her. Therefore, what could have been a sweet moment, came off as a stunt and portrayed the love interest as a buffoon and social retard.
I can only hope that Mandy finds better vessels for her talent in the future. Churning out garbage like this will do nothing for her reputation and continued employment in the film industry.
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