How To Deal

A muddled mess of melodrama and annoying teenage behavior derived from two unrelated novels, Someone Like You and That Summer, by popular young-adult author Sarah Dessen. Seventeen-year-old Halley Martin (pop-singer-turned-actress Mandy Moore) has had it with love, not because of her own experiences with heartbreak but because her aging hipster dad (Peter...read more

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Reviewed by Angel Cohn
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A muddled mess of melodrama and annoying teenage behavior derived from two unrelated novels, Someone Like You and That Summer, by popular young-adult author Sarah Dessen. Seventeen-year-old Halley Martin (pop-singer-turned-actress Mandy Moore) has had it with love, not because of her own experiences with heartbreak but because her aging hipster dad (Peter Gallagher) has just walked out on her mother (Allison Janney) for the stereotypical younger woman. Halley is further discouraged by the fact that her upbeat sister, Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison), is planning her wedding to the prim and proper Lewis (Mackenzie Astin) despite their constant bickering. Halley refuses to believe that love has its upside even after her best friend, Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), falls hard for sexy soccer player Michael (John White). Michael's attractive pal, Macon (Trent Ford), senses a kindred spirit in Halley &#151 she dresses funky and he's into practicing the Jedi mind trick &#151 but she spurns his advances, so he opts to befriend the stubborn object of his affection. The misfits begin relying on each other as Halley is forced to cope with her father's remarriage and Scarlett's pregnancy. Inevitably, Halley is torn when she realizes her platonic feelings for Macon have blossomed into the very emotion she professes to detest, especially after the dramatically necessary twist of fate makes her doubt his true intentions. To call this scattered and clich&#233-ridden film less-than-cohesive would be generous, and Moore lacks the ability to imbue hackneyed dialogue with resonance. Her Halley is a poster child for shallow teen angst, and it's hard to empathize with a character who seems like a spoiled, unsympathetic brat who's so supremely self-involved that everyone's feelings take a back seat to her own. English director Clare Kilner &#151 who debuted with the strenuously quirky JANICE BEARD (1999) &#151 never settles on a tone, allowing the film to flutter erratically from teen tragedy to geriatric humor (what could be funnier than a pot-smoking granny?) to formulaic romance that finds everyone paired with his or her ideal mate. The film's sole stand-out performance is Janney's; she makes Lydia Martin's transformation from secure suburban wife and mother to embittered divorc&#233e thoroughly convincing and sympathetic, despite her sadly abbreviated screen time.

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