How To Deal begins with a divorce and a wedding announcement
and continues on to include one major life event after another.
Deaths, remarriages, car accidents, pregnancies—the movie
is not so much “realistic,” as the publicity tells us, as
overdoing what could have been a good thing.
The movie is based on Sarah Dessen’s young adult novels,
Someone Like You and That Summer, which I have
not read, but which could explain the myriad topics. All in
all, this is not your typical bubblegum teen movie.
Halley Martin (Moore) is the teen girl who becomes
disillusioned with love after seeing her parents go through
a nasty divorce. Her best friend Scarlett’s (Holden)
separation from her boyfriend only cements in Halley’s mind
that all Love does is hurt people in the end. Then Macon Forrester
(Ford), the school troublemaker, begins to show an
interest in Halley and they hang out more and more—but only
as “just friends.” Halley thinks that with the right labels,
no one gets hurt.
The teen romance isn’t the only one getting screen time.
Halley’s older sister Ashley (Garrison) is going through
the ups and downs of an engagement to Lewis (Astin);
dad Len (Gallagher) eloped with a younger woman; and
mom Lydia (Janney) is recovering from the divorce.
The storylines weave in and out of each other, but are all
neatly tied up in the end. It seems especially unnatural here
not because teen movies aren’t known for quick fixes at the
end, but because the subject matter was especially heavy.
The two best things about How To Deal are 1) Allison
Janney and 2) Halley’s clothes. Janney plays Lydia Martin
with subtle humor and can quite possibly claim credit for
all the humorous scenes. She’s genuine and believable and
does a great job with the often-wanting script. Halley’s clothes
and accessories are unique pieces with interesting patterns
and shapes. She’s got skirts with wraparound detail and tops
with crashing diagonals. I thought they went quite well with
Moore’s new cropped ’do.
That said, there were plenty of places in the movie that
could have been much better. Moore herself leaves much to
be desired. Her idea of a tantrum is to pout her lips and
storm out of the house (or storm into the house, if she was
already outside). I lost track of all the cliches that were
thrown needlessly into this movie. Of course, there’s the
mandatory pop music as the camera pans across the high school,
this time provided by Skye Sweetnam’s “Billy
S,” which has already taken over local top-40 radio stations.
Worst of all, however, are the long monologues about love.
Moore has quite a few, dispelling the idea of true love, and
then there are her dissenters, who give arguments for their
side. The big one is a scene near the end where Ford is required
to give a profession of love, a scene more torturous than
If you’re not a teen movie fan, How To Deal won’t
convince you otherwise. And if you are, be forewarned that
this movie handles some adult themes, yet still provides that
happily ever after at the end.