|How to Deal
2003 - PG-13 - 95 Mins.
|Director: Clare Kilner
|Producer: Erica Huggins and William Teitler
|Written By: Neena Beber
|Starring: Mandy Moore, Allison Janney, Alexandra Holden, Peter Gallagher, Trent Ford
|Review by: Bill King
I'm convinced that Mandy Moore has a bright future in film ahead of her. She brings to the screen a quality of innocence and wholesomeness that we don't see too much of these days. After watching her in "A Walk to Remember" (2002), I looked forward to what she might do next, and luckily, I'm not disappointed. "How to Deal" is another vehicle to use her natural charm, and does so most effectively. Here is a high school film that manages to be grounded in realism and not burdened by clichés.
Mandy Moore stars as Halley Martin, a typical teenager confronted by the usual teen problems, such as divorced parents and a pregnant friend. Her father is Len (Peter Gallagher), a local eccentric radio host. Her mother is Lydia (Allison Janney), who is raising Halley by herself. There is also Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), Halley's best friend who loses her boyfriend to a heart defect. She's pregnant with his child, much to her own mother's initial disappointment.
The film takes place over a span of at least four months, from the beginning of the school year to sometime after New Years. There is a running plot about Halley's sister Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison) and her wedding. This is played for some laughs. First, Ashley and her fiancé want to marry, then they don't, then they do. There is a dinner with the two families. Halley's grandmother is on medical marijuana, and her reaction is amusing.
Halley sticks to a strict philosophy of not falling in love. She has seen enough pain in her life to take any risks. Then she meets Macon (Trent Ford), who has sincere feelings towards Halley, and she finds herself returning those feelings. Much of the film stays with this story thread, but occasionally the movie branches off, to observe how other characters are doing. Though nothing much happens in the way of self-discovery, this still makes for an interesting slice-of-life approach.
"A Walk to Remember" was a sweet film about young love, and had more of a dramatic effect. "How to Deal" isn't as strongly written, but it's well acted and it tells a good story. Mandy Moore has a wonderful screen presence. She reminds me of a young Reese Witherspoon in "The Man in the Moon." This is a feel-good kind of movie, the perfect antidote to having watched such overblown films like "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen."