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The Greatest Hits (A Movie Review)


Starring Lucy Boynton, Justin H. Min, David Corenswet, Austin Crute, Jackson Kelly, Retta, Andie Ju, Rory Keane, Pocket Turlington, Naomi Phan, Tom Yi, Evan Shafran, Jenne Kang, Mary Eileen O'Donnell, Ren Burttet, Nelly Furtado, Phil Manzanera, Andy McKay and Bryan Ferry.

Screenplay by Ned Benson.

Directed by Ned Benson.

Distributed by Searchlight Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated PG-13.

There are few things in the world that I love more in movies than music, romance and time travel. The Greatest Hits merges all these things together, so it really should be like catnip to me.

So, why didn’t I like it more than I did? In fact, why did I find it kind of boring and not just a tiny bit maudlin?

The Greatest Hits rides on a kind of genius central concept, and then squanders it all mercilessly.

Harriet (played by Lucy Boynton, who was Freddie Mercury’s female bestie in Bohemian Rhapsody) is a music producer who is going through a severe bout of depression after the sudden accidental death of Max (David Corenswet), the love of her life.

As a woman whose life revolves around music, she finds that listening to certain songs from the past can – quite literally – transport her to the time in which she originally experienced the song. She quickly becomes addicted to this strange new skill, spending most of her time picking certain songs and going back to relive her experiences with Max.

Unfortunately, you can’t always live in the past, and her pressing urge to keep returning to years gone by starts to negatively affect her present, particularly when she meets a guy (Justin H. Min) in a grief counseling group and realizes she kind of likes him. (Apparently, she didn’t like him enough for the screenwriter to actually give his character a name – unless I missed it – despite the fact that he plays a huge role in the second half of the film.)

Still, it’s a wild idea, full of possibilities and wonder. It’s a shame that The Greatest Hits can’t live up to its greatest bits.

For one thing, Harriet is a really miserable character, who doesn’t even seem to realize the wondrous miracle of what is happening to her. Instead, the film treats this gift as a burden, as an addiction that only makes her even more miserable in the present. And, yes, I get that the film suggests that you can get lost in the past and at the same time lose your way in the present, but there must have been a better way to convey that message.

The film also does not seem to know how to portray Harriet’s relationships, both with the late ex and the new dude in her life. It turns out to be a mix of tortured longing and romcom cliches – and for a movie that trades in romantic comedy platitudes, The Greatest Hits has very little in the way of lightness or humor.

However, The Greatest Hits does get bonus points for brief cameos by former pop star Nelly Furtado and the classic rock band Roxy Music, playing a song from their recent 50th anniversary reunion tour. In fact, the movie’s use of music in general as a necessity in the fabric of life is pretty spot on.

Too bad they couldn’t get the rest of their ideas to come together nearly as well.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2024 All rights reserved. Posted: April 10, 2024.

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