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on May 10, 2006
The movie lost me at the start with one of the guys enthusiastically proclaiming a totally plain looking girl dressed like a homeless person as "gorgeous", and then followed it up with "the prettiest girl I've ever seen", as if "prettiness" is really something cocky late teen/early 20s guys gush over. Around the 15 minute point it finds it's groove though.
In terms of visual atmosphere alone this film is an anomoly in the teen romance genre, and it also has a way of capturing casual moments by having participants in a group conversation expressing themselves with body language and facial expressions when others are speaking which creates a great sense of authenticity that I don't think I've seen since Crazy/Beautiful, which is still for my money the most poignantly realistic teen movie ever made. There's a minimal use of one-shots during conversations, and when they are used the transitions from one person to another aren't timed directly with when they start and stop speaking, so there's no reaction shots, it's all fluid. It creates a sense of everyone being in the moment instead of solemnly waiting their turn to speak and emote.
Visually the washed-out color, shaky cameras, and oddly framed shots are the opposite of what you'd expect from an MTV-style film featuring Ashlee Simpson. Actually focussing on the camerawork it seems maybe contrived, but for most of the movie it inconspicuously plays a vital part in adding mood and creating a portrait of the city at night which is as enchanting as anything in Lost In Translation.
Steven Strait's brooding singer-songwriter character is a bit of a caricature and Clea's description of him ("Luke has integrity. He wants to make it, but on his own terms."), addressed half to her friend and half to the camera, may be the least subtle exposition line in the history of cinema.
Brier's reluctance to become involved with Luke due to her attachment to an old rockstar semi-boyfriend who doesn't seem to have any redeeming qualities is difficult to sympathise with.
I can't say the plot isn't predictable, but no more so than is the case with the vast majority of films. The fact that they end up together in the end really is just like who cares. They don't give any real reason for it. They could have just as easily gone the bittersweet ending and had them decide to stay apart. As far as emotional investment in the character's arcs goes, you'd have to be pre-invested before the movie started to get anything out of it. The manufactured rise and fall of Luke's music career and all the details that go into it make up a pretty unique secondary plot.