I can sum up How To Deal very easily; it is the messy result of combining an entire season of “insert any teen drama” i.e Dawson's Creek into an hour and forty one minutes. The difference is that the teen angst often associated with these types of movies has been lyposuctioned out leaving a hollow shell of a movie that shows the number of ways a teenager can be tormented without ever really digging its nails into the issues.
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Let me give you an idea of how ridiculous this plot is (major spoilers to follow): Halley Martin (Mandy Moore) finds out that her parents are getting divorced on the same day her sister announces her engagement. Her father (Peter Gallagher) immediately announces his plans to elope with a much younger office associate. Halley's best friend finds out that she is an expecting mother who has been impregnated by her boyfriend who kicked the bucket while kicking soccer balls. What effect does all of this trauma have on Halley? Not much as far as I could tell except that she decides that it would be best for her to swear off love. This lasts for about ten seconds until Halley meets Macon (Trent Ford) who looks spookily like Judd Nelson from around the time of the Breakfast Club. During the unraveling of the film the two fall in love, then out of love and then back into love. (Let out long exasperated sigh).
The whole love story theme could have worked even though stars Moore and Ford look so much alike that they could be confused for sisters. The couple's endearing shared moments weren't all that special when set against the multi-tragic backdrop that has been created which had the effect of desensitizing me towards tragedy. I wanted to yell at Mandy's character “how can you be concerned with falling in love when all of these other horrible things are happening to you and your family?”
Moore's talents in front of the camera are developing; she is noticeably more comfortable and confident, looking like a strong contender as a future leading lady. Ford doesn't quite achieve the lovable loser role that he was reaching for; he speaks too breathily and gives off the vibe that he thinks he's the next hot thing. Gallagher is out of place and ridiculous in the role of the Halley's father. Allison Janney (Halley's mother) is the most remarkable member of the cast as a woman who is torn up over the sudden ending of her marriage while defending the very man who is breaking her heart.
Improvement is achievable simply by taking the flimsy romance between Halley and Macon out of center stage and focusing instead on Moore's character and how she deals with an extremely unlucky streak. One last thought: how many movies are going to be made involving a pot smoking, sex crazed, or rapping senior citizen? Enough already.
The review of this Movie prepared by Christopher Bryan