My Netflix queue delivered First Daughter, a 2004 comedy/romance starring Katie Holmes. I was surprised to see that Forest Whitaker, Academy Award winning actor who was the butler in the last film I reviewed, directed it. I discovered he also directed one of my favorite movies, Waiting to Exhale! What a talented man. The story for First Daughter was partially attributed to Jerry O’Connell, the child actor of Stand By Me who grew up to be a handsome man in such films as Jerry Maguire. It’s great how these actors are able to follow their creativity where it leads them.
Samantha MacKenzie (Katie Holmes) is the daughter of President MacKenzie (Michael Keaton) who is seeking a reelection. She has already lived in the White House for four years, and is now of college age. Longing to break out and see the world on her own, she is less than thrilled with the prospects of going away to school with Secret Service men trailing her at every turn.
She does, however, leave her famous parents in DC and travel to California to be a college girl. Samantha finds that anonymity is nonexistent and that living with her first roommate, Mia Thompson (Amerie) is a challenge. She tries to fit in with college life, and falls for James Lansome (Marc Blucas), a handsome student she meets in her dorm.
The witty dialogue between Samantha and James is really quite entertaining. The story sets them up with a natural affinity for one another, and the chemistry between them is really great. Other than that, the story is somewhat predictable, Samantha taking risks with her behavior that the media pounces upon in order to cast aspersions at her father seeking a second term. I had not seen Katie Holmes in any movies that I could recall. I was actually impressed by her acting.
It was a cute little film, entertaining, funny, romantic, and I admired the set dressing. There were several times where the beauty of the shot impressed me, like when Samantha appeared in a purple gown and the flowers she was standing next to had light purple blooms. I notice these things; the colors they used in her wardrobe, and how the set complemented her costumes. While the settings should be subtle and not detract from the story, there is a balance to be had where the set dressing enhances the story and the character in it.
The film is rated PG for language, sexual situations and alcohol-related material. I can see why teenage girls might really like this film. It is kind of a princess story, as Samantha, as the first daughter, has to go to elegant functions dolled up in gowns with her hair piled on her head in elegance and grace. Young girls might truly identify with her character, wanting both the privilege and benefits of the family she’s been born into, as well as understanding her desperate quest for freedom, wishing the same would come from their own family.