Movies — First Daughter (PG)

First Daughter (PG)

- Amy Diaz


Katie “Joey Potter” Holmes plays the prissy only child of the president in First Daughter, a nearly identical movie to the Mandy Moore vehicle Chasing Liberty.

Except Mandy Moore’s movie was better.

Better.

Samantha (Holmes) is the poised, intelligent daughter of President Mackenzie (Michael Keaton), a one-termer campaigning for his part two. His years in office have seen his daughter blossom from a shy preteen, all braces and nerdiness, to a composed college freshman. Setting out for her first year at Redmond University in California, Samantha desperately wants to have a normal college experience but she’s forever followed by her fame, her father’s position and several burly Secret Service agents. They flank her in the hallways, prevent students from sitting next to her in class and attend pool parties, in full wool suit, ready to pounce on anyone who should point a water pistol in Samantha’s direction. Their presence, along with the halo of attention that forever surrounds Sam, alienates her roommate Mia (Amerie) and keeps the rest of the student body looking at her as only a curiosity, not a potential friend.

But, Samantha becomes all giggly with the tingly feelings when she meets someone who isn’t intimidated by her position. James Lansome (Marc Blucas) sees her as just a college freshman and wants to get to know her for the girl behind the father-related fame. Always conveniently present when she needs him, James helps her escape the press and her security detail so that she can live the life of a normal girl. Even though he’s her resident dorm advisor person and she’s a nothing-but-trouble quivering mass of naiveté, the two form a bond that’s more than friendship. A bond made of watery girl pop and really fake-looking kisses.

So, yes, remember Chasing Liberty? Mandy Moore, first daughter, tired of being good, rebels in moderate whiney ways, meets a boy, all is not as it appears…Basically, this is that movie. Only, God help us, that movie was cooler. And better.

In Chasing Liberty, Moore just sort of snaps and takes off, looking to be by herself. She meets a boy, has an absurd relationship with him and is eventually a little frightened by the power of her fame. It’s all very ridiculous and Moore is quite screechy in her acting. And yet, compared to the little pink snack cake of this movie, Chasing Liberty is a gritty slice of realism.

Here, Holmes’ rebellion is so measured it becomes almost painful to watch. She goes from sleep-inducing to remarkably tame in the space of almost two hours Particularly lame are two “scandals.” In one she and her roommate slide down a hill and the roommate’s thong briefly appears and is photographed, landing on the front page of a tabloid. (That’s right, the roommate’s thong.) The other scandal comes when she dances on a table. She doesn’t strip—she leaves with all clothes in place—she just dances an awkward drunken white-girl dance. And the hell of it is that after being forced to watch this goober-ish display, we are forced to listen to endless droning about what a disgrace she is to the Mackenzie administration. Why, her mother tells her sternly, he’s even dropped in the polls.

No!

Perhaps this is because Keaton’s Mackenzie is sort of a wienerhead. He puts his daughter in situations where it is impossible for her to not stand out and then gets upset that she’s made a spectacle of herself. One only wonders what that kind of logic looks like when put to use on foreign and domestic policy.

Blucas, in his role as Samantha’s first big romance, does not give you much hope that this first daughter will ultimately land a man anymore interesting and intelligent than her father. Blucas plays her as a less complex, more single-minded version of Riley Finn, the character he played in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Blessed with a truly Wonderbread character in James, Blucas is completely unbelievable in his scenes with Holmes. They have less than no chemistry—they seem to be in a competition for who can act the least interested in the other.

It’s a sad day when you find yourself looking up to Mandy Moore but sadly, Katie Holmes, that’s just what you’re doing.

- Amy Diaz

 
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