ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  forest whitaker

RATED  -  pg

GENRE  -  romantic comedy

LENGTH  -  104 minutes

RELEASED  -  24 september 2004

DISTRIBUTOR  -  20th century fox

OFFICIAL SITE  -  first daughter

first daughter - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from first daughter at

buy the dvd from first daughter at

the daughter of the u.s. president heads off to college where she feels pressure to act the part.

the release date for the film was pushed back after the identically plotted chasing liberty stole the same release date.


picture from first daughter

picture from first daughter

picture from first daughter

picture from first daughter


one out of four possible stars

First Daughter is a film with its heart in the right place, but is a creation that meanders rather completely in the realm of the mediocre. Lead actress Katie Holmes, playing the title character and daughter of the President of the United States, had had varied amounts of success in her feature film endeavors, but she never stretches her abilities beyond what would be required of this usually mundane script. In point of fact, the script is the strangest part of this film.

First Daughter began filming in June 2003, just one month after Chasing Liberty, a film that not only resembles Daughter, but has the exact same plot. The only difference between these films is that one takes place in Europe and the other takes place in California. The basic idea of the film has the potential to turn into an attractive movie, but it's just so strange that neither of these film's crews got the formula just right. Though it should be said that Liberty has a little more charm than Daughter.

It's difficult to recommend this film to any specific audience, because although it's clearly intended for young, female viewers, even those ticket-buyers would have higher dramatic standards. This film floats along like a puffy white cloud most of the time, with far too few instances of thunder and lightning coming into the mix. The idea of a young woman going off to college really is presented in a lovely way, but the problem, more so than the plot, is the dialogue.

The running time of the film is perfectly respectable, the plot, while predictable, really isn't too much of a concern in this genre, but one of the things that could have made this film a more engaging experience would have been some crackling dialogue. As a viewer, you know what the characters are going to do from the opening credits, but if you don't know what they're going to say, your attention just might start to hang on their every word. The duo of screenwriters responsible for First Daughter were entirely lacking in this department.

Jessica Bendinger and Kate Kondell, the writers for this film, have constructed a cast of characters that ranges from the sticky sweet to the endearingly hilarious, but whenever somebody says a line of dialogue, the film's IQ just drops a few too many digits. It's like Bendinger and Kondell were trying to make a point of taking all the dialogue that's already been written for the screen and put it into one screenplay. You've already heard these characters say these things in countless other films.

The screenwriters both failed in their job of finding things for those characters to say that nobody's ever said before. It's a safe bet that every movie out there in production right now has already been made before in some form, but what keeps the interest level high is having those familiar characters say something out of the ordinary. And since the characters are all uttering things that have been said the same way, countless times before, it's up to crewmembers such as the cinematographer, the set designer, and the composer.

The cinematographer, Toyomichi Kurita, didn't place an emphasis on anything unusual in his view through the lens, though the film's photography is noninvasive and well composed with Alec Hammond's production design and Keith Neely's art direction. Likewise, the costuming by Francine Jamison-Tanchuck and the set decoration by Denise Pizzini create a favorable look to the film. For a mainstream Hollywood feature, the crew has completed their jobs with the required excellence.

Supporting roles in the film are filled appropriately as well, with Michael Keaton creating a stand-out performance as the president, taking the dialogue further than anyone in the film. Perennial second banana Marc Blucas, an actor who's been quite busy on screen since the turn of the millennium, does well with his character as well, playing Katie Holmes's love interest, a fellow college student. The comic relief in the film, in the form of two secret service agents, is a welcome diversion throughout the film as well.

A final note on this film: the score is one of the most memorable aspects of the movie and was composed by the late, great Michael Kamen, who suffered a fatal heart attack in 2003. Blake Neely, one of Kamen's orchestrators, completed what Kamen started and between the two, the score is definitely one of the better parts of the film. The movie is dedicated to Kamen's memory and is the score is a beautiful musical tribute.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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