Essentially The Virgin Suicides-lite, How to Deal unravels like pages from a self-flagellating tween girl’s diary. Halley Martin (Mandy Moore) wants to know why love makes people crazy and has yet to grasp the concept that “even Madonna eventually got married.” While mom (Allison Janney) takes out her frustrations with the male sex on unsuspecting garden weeds and soda machines, her child of divorce dutifully shuns the love of the cool Macon (Trent Ford). When it rains it pours, and every potentially thorny crisis in the film—walking in on a best friend having sex, an impromptu death, an unexpected pregnancy—is reduced to a mere Hallmark card moment. Just as naïve but more sweetly spontaneous are director Clare Kilner’s evocations of the flutters of a first-time love affair: Macon first seduces Halley by attaching a leaf blower to her back and later shares with her a magical realist kiss before an eruption of water at a local dam. The rocks Macon throws at Halley’s bedroom window soon become as difficult to swallow as the film’s grade school sentiments, easy resolutions and ridiculous literal-mindedness (Halley crashes into love, but not before crashing into a tree). But for all its sappiness, How to Deal is every bit as earnest and innocent as Moore’s last star vehicle, the Christian pop film A Walk to Remember. “Love is a big scary concept,” she says. Indeed Halley, now can you please pass some of that ganja your funny little grandmother is smoking?
Some shimmering here, some edge enhancement there. Overall, the transfer is peachy keen. In the audio department, you can choose between standard stereo and 5.1 Dolby Digital surround. Whichever way you go, dialogue seems to have been recorded pretty low, perhaps to match the quietness of the film. It's a clean mix but you may have to crank the volume during scenes with multiple actors talking at the same time.
The commentary track with Clare Kilner, Mandy Moore and Alexandra Holden is certainly intimate, but it's more giggly than insightful in the end. Four lovely deleted scenes come with optional commentary from the trio that is in many ways more profound than anything they offer for the actual feature film. The cheesily named "Moore on Mandy" and "Macon Trent" offer kid-friendly visual summaries of Mandy Moore and Trent Ford's careers and roles in How to Deal. "To Be Clare" makes it, um, clear that director Clare Kilner goes to the movies to feel "a little less alone in the world." Because it's such a beautiful sentiment, it's unfortunate that the featurette is so short. "How to Deal with Young Adult Literature" is a punchy 28-minute documentary featuring interviews with authors, scholars and female fans of young adult fiction. This impressive piece sweetly explains the allure of reading for many young girls in our crazy multi-media age. Also included here are two music videos (Skye Sweetnam's "Billy S." and Liz Phair's "Why Can't I") and trailers for How to Deal, Elf, Love and Basketball, Sugar and Spice, and Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd.
"Love is a big scary concept," she says. Indeed Halley, now can you please pass some of that ganja your funny little grandmother is smoking?