Director(s): Forest Whitaker
Writer(s): Jessica Bendinger and Kate Kondell
Cast: Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas, Ameriie, Michael Keaton and Margaret Colin
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Sep 24, 2004 - Wide
Every once in a while in Hollywood the development cycle of different studios seems to sync up and we can suddenly be confronted by similar films month apart. In the late Eighties, we had Dangerous Liaisons and Valmont. The situation this time, sadly, is not of the same quality. A few months ago we had Chasing Liberty, a story about a perky brunette presidential daughter played by Mandy Moore. Now we have First Daughter, a story about a perky brunette presidential daughter played by Katie Holmes.
Holmes plays Samantha Mackenzie, the daughter of the President of the United States (Michael Keaton). Samantha has always been the dutiful daughter, well-behaved, smiling for the cameras and standing proudly next to her father at photo ops. She’s now heading off to college and sees this as a chance to get some freedom from the Secret Service detail that watches over her every move. Sadly for her, this is not the case and the agents sit with her in roped-off sections of her lecture halls and follow her everywhere she goes. There’s also tension with her new roommate Mia (Amerie), a feisty girl who is used to being the centre of attention. That’s hard to be when the world is watching your roommate’s every move. The pair get up to some antics to try and get POTUS’ attention and there’s a romance with a faculty adviser who may not be what he appears to be.
From the opening narration by director Forest Whitaker, we get the feeling that this is supposed to be a bit of a fairy tale, where the princess gets to leave the pretty prison of the castle and try to live life for a while with the common folk. The story, originally written by actor Jerry O’Connell in 1999, has been on the shelf for some time and I think that staleness overlooks an important change in the lives of public figures. It was written pre-9/11 and now, five years later, there would be an even bigger target on the back of a presidential child than there was before. I’d like to have seen perhaps an exploration of that in the script now. It could still be a comedy, perhaps a little darker, but this film, though set in the present day, seems to be stuck in a Norman Rockwell painting era in America, full of Mom’s apple pie and neighbours who leave their doors unlocked. It’s just all too safe. It’s beige and even the twist at the end is such that it’s a recruitment poster for dutiful daughters who’ll become the dutiful wives who stand next to their disgraced husbands when they confess their sins to the press.
Holmes captured our hearts in Dawson’s Creek, and kept us interested with performances in Go, Wonder Boys and Pieces of April. Here she plays a cookie cutter role that could have been given to any cute brunette. I really hope she can get back on an arc of interesting roles.
First Daughter is one of the formulaic romantic comedies that is aimed at mid-teen girls. It’s as safe as a crush on a boy band and about as memorable.