Hilary Duff (search) juggles her singing and acting careers in real life — and does a little of both in her new movie "Raise Your Voice," (search) in theaters this weekend.

Duff plays Terri Fletcher, a small-town girl and aspiring singer at a summer performing arts school in Los Angeles, who’s also trying to cope with her brother's death in a tragic car accident.

The 17-year-old actress, whose acting career has mainly been a series of light-and-airy teenage flicks like “A Cinderella Story” and “The Lizzie McGuire Movie,” said she enjoyed the experience of starring in a film with a more serious, grown-up feel to it.

“I liked this movie. It made me really happy,” said Duff. “It’s a bit dramatic and a bit older without being inappropriate.”

Handling two careers can be a challenge for anyone, but Duff says she tries to maintain perspective and do what she thinks is right.

“I like to keep things pretty separate … the music and the movies,” said the singer/actress. “I get the best of both worlds.”

In “Raise Your Voice,” directed by Sean McNamara (search), Duff gets to combine her two passions. She said the story and script, written by Mitch Rotter and Sam Schreiber, instantly appealed to her.

“I liked that it was a different kind of music than I was singing in real life,” she said. “Music relates to people’s lives so much. This girl had a really bad hand dealt to her … music helps her get through it.”

Film critics aren’t exactly singing the film’s praises, however. Associated Press entertainment writer Christy Lemire characterized “Raise Your Voice” as “’Fame’ with Christian overtones,” and wasn’t overly impressed with the end result.

“While it's admirable of the filmmakers to try and offer something for young people that's not hopeless or subversive, what they've come up with here is earnest and wholesome — but unfortunately stiff and corny,” Lemire said.

“Raise Your Voice,” a New Line Cinema release, is rated PG and also stars Oliver James, Rita Wilson, John Corbett and Rebecca De Mornay.

FOX News' Catherine Donaldson-Evans, Mike Waco, Lisa Bernhard contributed to this report.