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A Good Person (A Movie Review)


Starring Florence Pugh, Morgan Freeman, Chinaza Uche, Celeste O'Connor, Molly Shannon, Zoe Lister-Jones, Nichelle Hines, Toby Onwumere, Ignacio Diaz-Silverio, Oli Green, Alex Wolff, Brian Rojas, Ryann Redmond, Sydney Morton, Mike Menendez, Chip Hamilton, Drew Gehling, Dudney Joseph Jr., Mark Thudium, Victor Cruz, Jessie Mueller, Emilia Suárez and Anthony Cedeño.

Screenplay by Zach Braff.

Directed by Zach Braff.

Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. 129 minutes. Rated R.

The title A Good Person carries a certain amount of baggage. After all, all of the characters in this well-meaning, if sometimes slightly manipulative drama, are basically good people, although they all have flaws.

I believe the specific good person in the title is supposed to be Allison (Florence Pugh), a twenty-something pharmaceutical rep who has a tragic accident which not only kills two people but ends up destroying her engagement and causing her to become addicted to Oxycontin.

I say I believe it’s supposed to be her, I guess, because the description just as easily fits Daniel (Morgan Freeman), a retired cop and ten-years-sober alcoholic whose daughter was killed in the accident, and now is struggling to care for his granddaughter.

It would also be a fitting way to refer Nathan (Chinaze Uche), Allison’s former fiancé who watched the accident not only kill his sister and brother-in-law, but also destroy the life of the woman he loves. (Allison broke off the engagement, not Nathan.)

Or it could even be Ryan (Celeste O’Connor), the granddaughter who lost her parents and now is trying to come up with the empathy to forgive the woman responsible for their death.

Like I said, they’re all good people. Good, imperfect people. Which may be the point.

A Good Person is sweet and messy and tragic and sometimes a little schmaltzy, much like life.

The film is the return to the New Jersey roots of writer/director Zach Braff, who is perhaps better known as a light comic actor (Scrubs, and more recently a ubiquitous series of T-Mobile commercials), nearly two decades after his filmmaking debut with Garden State.

Garden State has had a weird trajectory over the years. When it was originally released, it was an acclaimed arthouse hit. However, over the years a massive backlash has formed on the film, to the point that it now is pretty much mocked and despised. I come down somewhere in the middle – when it first came out, I didn’t think it was as good as so many said, but it’s also in no way the embarrassment that so many say now.

A Good Person is not likely to excite so much passion – either in the positive or the negative.

Yet, in several ways it is rather similar to the earlier film. Like that film, the female lead is “manic-pixie-dream-girl” adjacent, although one who in the long run has been cowed by tragedy and medical and psychological problems. Braff, a New Jersey native, also still does have a firm grasp on the people and places of the Garden State.

Also like Garden State the storyline pulls on the heartstrings, sometimes shamelessly.

However, the acting is rather terrific, particularly by Freeman, who is a welcome presence in one of his too few current leading roles, and Uche as perhaps the most grounded person there, who is trying to keep the fraying relationships and people around him from falling apart.

Pugh is mostly sympathetic in a much more difficult role. Sometimes you don’t totally buy her as an oxy addict, but otherwise she negotiates the bombshells that the script throws at her with confidence and aplomb.

But whoever it was who thought it was a good idea to give Molly Shannon a somewhat dramatic role as Allison’s worried mother… no. Just no.

Still, even though the audience feels slightly manipulated, A Good Person often works.

It’s a good movie. Not a great one, mind you. But like the good people it is portraying, greatness is something it can aspire to.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2023 All rights reserved. Posted: March 24, 2023.

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