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HOW TO DEAL

Mandy Moore as an actress is like that quiet girl in your class who wrote something funny in the yearbook and grew up to win a Nobel Prize or become a Supreme Court justice. That persona served the pop singer well in her first film, A Walk To Remember, where she played a plain-jane Christian do-gooder with a heart of steel and irony. It wears a bit thin in Clare Kilner’s adaptation of a pair of Sarah Dessen’s young-adult novels.

Moore’s Halley Martin is cynical, not idealistic like her character in Walk. But she’s equally virginal, put off from romance and commitment by the sad examples of her friends and relations. And well she should be. Dad (Peter Gallagher), an obnoxious soft-rock radio DJ, has split from mom (Allison Janney) and is marrying a younger woman with augmented breasts. Mom sneaks out Friday nights to have sex with a Civil War re-enacter. Sis is engaged to an uptight nerd whose family has ante-bellum airs. And her best friend, Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), is embarrassingly besotted with her beau. True, Macon (Trent Ford) is cute and funny, but he’s also a Star Wars geek and seems unreliable.

So how will Halley learn to have faith in love and commitment, as we know she must? No problem — just throw in a heart attack, a pregnancy, and a car crash and have marijuana-"medicated" Grandma (lovely, funny Nina Foch) remind her that "nobody’s perfect." No movie is, either, but the best part of this mishmash is Moore’s mercurial and evocative performance. (101 minutes)


Issue Date: July 18 - 24, 2003
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