First Daughter
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Forest Whitaker
scr Jessica Bendinger, Kate Kondell
with Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Michael Keaton, Margaret Colin, Amerie, Lela Rochon Fuqua, Michael Milhoan, Dwayne Adway, Hollis Hill, Ken Moreno, Joan Rivers, Jay Leno
release US 24.Sep.04,
UK 11.Feb.05
04/US Regency 1h46

Bigger smiles, please: Holmes and Blucas

holmes blucas keaton

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First Daughter What is it with Whitaker that as an actor he chooses unhinged, edgy fare like The Crying Game and Ghost Dog, but as a director he goes all sentimental and cute with the likes of Hope Floats and Waiting to Exhale? Well here he is again with a film that's almost pathologically adorable.

As the only daughter of the US President (Keaton) and First Lady (Colin), 18-year-old Samantha (Holmes) is itching to spread her wings and prove herself, so she chooses a university as far from home as possible. Although she can't get away from those pesky Secret Service guards (Milhoan, Adway, et al), and the paparazzi catches all of her embarrassing moments, which isn't helpful to Dad in an election year. But her frisky roommate (Amerie) has her feet firmly on the ground, and then Samantha meets a dishy fellow student (Blucas) who actually gets her.

There's so little edge to this slight little rom-com that we feel like we're being beaten with a blunt instrument while we're watching it. Holmes tries to add dark shadows here and there, but you can almost hear Whitaker off-screen prodding her to smile bigger and bigger in every scene. By the end she looks like she's going to snap and kill someone! Her scenes with Keaton (nicely offhanded) are the film's best--that father-daughter stuff is deeply cliched but it works. The romance with Lucas is unconvincing and far too smiley for words, even though he gives it a real go as well.

The film's directed with no style at all--it's merely another sugary confection rolling off that increasingly bland Hollywood conveyer belt with lots of life lessons and contrived moralising. It even has a predictably dull plot twist in the middle that only barely ripples the formulaic plotline. If you're not a fan of Holmes, there's no reason at all to see this film, unless maybe you're on an airplane and there's nothing else to watch. And you can't sleep. Well, it worked for me. And to be fair, I stayed awake until the end.

cert PG themes, innuendo 8.Jan.05

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2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall