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How to Deal Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/18/2003

Mandy Moore had a lot to prove to me after being in one of the worst movies of last year, A Walk to Remember.  Her latest movie, How to Deal, lifts her credibility a little more, but she still has a long way to go.


Halley Martin (Moore) is a 17-year-old girl who doesn’t understand love.  All the people in her life are giving her bad examples of it.  Her mother, Lydia (Allison Janney), still hasn’t gotten over the divorce from her father, Len (Peter Gallagher), a rock DJ working for a soft rock station.  If the divorce wasn’t bad enough, Len makes it worse by marrying the traffic reporter at his station, who is younger and more annoying than Lydia.  Halley’s sister, Ashley (Mary Catherine Garrison), is marrying Lewis Warsher (Mackenzie Astin), a straight-laced guy she is always fighting with.  Her best friend, Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), is head-over-heels in love with her soccer-playing boyfriend.  One day, he dies of a weird heart condition on the soccer field, and not long after, Scarlett finds out she is pregnant with his baby, which she has a hard time trying to tell her mother, Marion (Connie Ray.)  The only person in Halley’s life who seems normal is Macon Forrester (Trent Ford.)  He acts as a good friend, even though he does goofy things like pretend to do the Jedi Mind Trick to get Halley to go out with him or kiss him.  She doesn’t want to fall in love with him, because she thinks she will get hurt, since that is all she has seen around her.  After some sage advice from her pot-smoking Grandma (Nina Foch), Halley considers giving Trent a chance.  She also sees her mom getting back into the game with a Civil War reenacting soda machine distributor named Steve (Dylan Baker), so maybe her love life can be better.


I’ll be honest…the movie is sappy crap.  It’s yet another chick flick about a person with commitment problems.  What lifts it up somewhat are some good performances.  Moore is actually a better actress in my mind than she is a singer.  Janney slums it here with a wasted performance (she needs a better agent, she is too talented to be wasted.)  The highlights of the movie were the scenes with Foch.  Her tripped-out Granny stole every scene she was in, and it made me wonder if the movie was a comedy or drama.   Her scenes were hilarious, but if it was a comedy, the rest of it wasn’t very funny.

How to Deal is based off two novels by Sarah Dessen named Someone Like You and That Summer.  I’ve never read either book, but I wonder if it had better dialogue.  This movie comes off like a mid eighties John Hughes flick, minus the great music and snappy dialogue (okay, I did like that new Chingy hit “Right Thurr,” which was played during a party scene.)  My rating is raised to so-so based on Foch’s scenes alone.  Mandy, you still have a little ways to go, but I think you’ll make it.

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