For everyone who totally freaked out when Mandy Moore's character croaked in 2002's ''A Walk to Remember,'' the pop star has good news: ''I don't die in this one.'' Okay, cool. In her fifth -- yep, fifth -- movie, the 19-year-old actress-singer-MTV hostess plays a high schooler who gives up on love when her parents (Allison Janney and Peter Gallagher) split, her best friend gets pregnant, and her sister plans to marry a guy who she may not really dig. (In other words, take a decade's worth of ''90210'' episodes and roll 'em all together.) ''It's pretty random,'' understates Moore, whose character's faith is restored in the arms of newcomer Trent Ford.
Shot last summer in Toronto, ''Deal'' was adapted by Daria vet Beber from the young-adult novels ''Someone Like You'' and ''That Summer'' by Sarah Dessen. For Janney, who tends to balance grown-up projects with popcorny fare like ''10 Things I Hate About You,'' it was a chance to work for the first time with longtime friends Gallagher (both appeared in ''American Beauty,'' but never together) and ''Happiness''' Dylan Baker. ''It's really very funny,'' says the ''West Wing'' Emmy winner of her character's affair with Baker's Civil War reenactor. ''Comedy is so much easier on my soul than these heavy-duty dramas.''
Keeping things light on set was Brit director Clare Kilner, whose only other feature credit was the tiny 2002 indie ''Janice Beard.'' ''I've never worked with a female director before,'' says Moore. ''It was really nice: If you're going through stuff personally, if you're having a bad day, if you're on your period, you know she understands.'' Um, TMI, Mandy!