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How to Deal (2003)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama, Romance | 18 July 2003 (USA)
2:32 | Trailer

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A teenager (Moore), disillusioned by too many examples of love gone wrong, refuses to believe that true love exists. Then this new guy (Ford) comes along...


Clare Kilner


Sarah Dessen (novels), Nena Beeber (screenplay) (as Neena Beber)



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mandy Moore ... Halley Martin
Allison Janney ... Lydia Martin
Trent Ford ... Macon Forrester
Alexandra Holden ... Scarlett Smith
Dylan Baker ... Steve Beckwith
Nina Foch ... Grandma Halley
Mackenzie Astin ... Lewis Warsher
Connie Ray ... Marion Smith
Mary Catherine Garrison ... Ashley Martin
Sonja Smits ... Carol Warsher
Laura Catalano Laura Catalano ... Lorna Queen
Ray Kahnert ... Donald Sherwood
Andrew Gillies ... Buck Warsher
John White ... Michael Sherwood
Alison MacLeod Alison MacLeod ... Sharon Sherwood


Halley is a young high school student who is disillusioned with love after seeing the many dysfunctional relationships around her. Her parents are now divorced and her father has a new young girlfriend she doesn't care for too much. Her mother is now always alone; and her sister is so overwhelmed by her upcoming wedding that she barely leaves the house anymore. On top of that, the shallowness of all the girls and guys at her school convinces Halley that finding true love is impossible. A tragic accident, however, leads her to meeting Macon, and suddenly Halley finds that true love can occur under unusual circumstances. Written by Sujit R. Varma

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A lesson in love for non-believers. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for sexual content, drug material, language and some thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »


Official Sites:

New Line





Release Date:

18 July 2003 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Enamórate See more »


Box Office


$16,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,809,960, 20 July 2003, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$14,108,518, 10 August 2003
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Mandy Moore cut her hair short because she felt it suited the role; the movie producers weren't happy about it. In the end they compromised and had her wear hair extension for some of the movie and then have her having her hair cut put into the film. See more »


When Halley and Ashley are at Len and Lorna's place, when Len first takes a glass of champagne, he is not wearing a wedding ring. In the next shot, Len is holding the glass of champagne, wearing a wedding ring. See more »


Halley: You will take a step toward me and on the count of 3... 2... 1
[leans in to kiss]
Halley: We dance.
See more »


Featured in Beyond Clueless (2014) See more »


Written by Evan Stamka
Performed by The Best Rainy Days
Courtesy of Capitol Records
See more »

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User Reviews

"How To Deal" had promise but is ultimately disappointing...
20 July 2003 | by groovymike_16See all my reviews

How To Deal tries to "deal" with too much in too little time, making for one crowded and not fully satisfying teen drama. It probably wasn't such a good idea to try and cram two books worth of material into one movie. But even so, I'm sure it could have worked better than it does here. There's so many characters and relationships, which would be fine but dividing the time up between them doesn't leave much time for each one. And the main one we are supposed to care about feels rushed. Although I'm actually thankful the relationship with Halley (Mandy Moore) and Macon (Trent Ford) didn't have more time, because it was a joke and the whole time I kept rolling my eyes and screaming inside "NO! Don't get together. You guys couldn't be more wrong for eachother." I never wanted them to be together. They had zero chemistry, and I never felt they really cared for eachother. It felt like a waste of time watching a so called "relationship" between these two. I'm shocked at how contrived this relationship was. I haven't seen a more contrived relationship in a teen movie in quite some time now. I don't see how anyone, even pre-teens, could not see through this. It was simply pathetic. It felt like all Macon wanted was to get in Halley's pants, and that's all she wanted too. So then later on when she says to him something to the effect that she was starting to love him, I couldn't help but think `Love? Ha! You obviously don't know what love is because there's no way you could love him when you don't even know him and haven't had a single deep conversation, unless it was shown off-screen.' I never once cared about Macon, and couldn't see how it would be at all possible for Halley to either. Hmm, maybe all of the dysfunctional relationships around her blinded her and made her a bad judge of character? It would certainly seem so.

When a romance movie ends and you are left thinking that it's very likely the two could break-up the next day and don't have a chance in hell at staying together, it's not exactly a good thing. Of course in this case, I'd have been more satisfied with them breaking it off before the movie ended. Now that would have been a happy ending for me. But at least it's comforting knowing that they don't stand a chance at lasting, and Halley might eventually find real true love.

Surprisingly, the best relationship comes from Halley's best friend, Scarlett (Alexandra Holden), and her new boyfriend, Michael (John White). Sadly, they only get a few seconds of screen time, yet the two characters seemed to have the most chemistry and had me more interested than the Halley/Macon relationship. I swear anything would be more interesting than the relationship between Halley and Macon though. I'm willing to bet that a cardboard box and a rock have more chemistry.

Mandy Moore (A Walk To Remember) gives a nice, natural performance again. It's too bad it wouldn't have been in a better movie. Trent Ford, on the other hand, gives what is sure to be the worst male performance of the year. Every time he spoke I would roll my eyes. He delivers his lines so atrociously bad that it has to be seen to believe. Even the two girls sitting a few seats over from me would make fun of him every time he was on the screen. I couldn't have agreed with them more. This guy was just so awful. Him and Moore had absolutely no chemistry. I actually think with a better actor playing Macon that the relationship between Halley and Macon wouldn't have been so laughable. In fact, I think the lead role should have went to John White, who had the small part of Michael, and someone else should have played Michael. Although the only problem with that is that it might cheapen the nice relationship between Michael and Scarlett if he were played by someone else. Either way, Trent Ford should not have been in this, unless he was just an extra that walks by the camera in a scene and doesn't have to speak. I don't mean to be so harsh, but his performance was just so downright terrible. I highly suggest some acting lessons before attempting another role, that is if anyone is even going to want to hire him after this. Anyway, enough about him. A nice surprise was Alexandra Holden (The Hot Chick), who was just adorable as Halley's best friend. I really would like to see her in more roles soon. She made her character so likable that I rather would have been watching a movie about her instead. In my opinion, she stole the show from Moore. Also providing a good performance as usual was Allison Janney (Drop Dead Gorgeous, The Hours) as Halley's mom. She provides for a very welcome and somewhat shocking (considering the kind of movie) laugh in one of her first major scenes. It was probably the best scene she was in. Also worth a note is Nina Foch as Halley's pot smoking grandmother. She manages to give us a few laughs in the few scenes she's in.

In the end, How To Deal had promise but is ultimately disappointing. I give it credit for trying to be edgier, and I really did appreciate it actually throwing in a couple of sudden and unexpected shocks our way, but there's just too much going on for one movie, leaving it all cluttered and feeling somewhat phony. I couldn't help but be reminded of a much better edgier PG-13 movie involving teens, the downright superb and well acted Crazy/Beautiful (9/10 or A-). Now that's one that managed to succeed with flying colors. This one is all stale. Sure, it brings up real problems that teens face, but the way it presents most of them just doesn't ring true. Don't get me wrong, it was decent and not really boring or anything, but sadly, it doesn't live up to its full potential.

For a movie that claims to be `a lesson in love for non-believers,' I sure can't see anyone learning much.

Grade: 6/10 (C+)

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