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The Greatest Hits movie review (2024)

As a piece of filmmaking, “The Greatest Hits” doesn’t lack ambition, much less a pedigree. Writer-director Ned Benson took a huge swing ten years ago with “The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby,” which recounted a relationship from two lovers’ perspectives, and was reedited into a combined, “Rashomon”-sh story (they were subtitled “His,” “Hers” and “Them,” and are available in all three versions). This new feature has a splash of “Slaughterhouse Five,” in that its heroine Harriet (Lucy Boynton) trips backwards in time whenever she hears a song that reminds her of a moment she shared with her late boyfriend Max (David Corenswet, James Gunn’s newly anointed Superman), and one of Benson’s smartest decisions as a screenwriter is to keep you guessing during first two-thirds as to whether Harriet’s condition is scientifically quantifiable or if she’s so deep in the grief-pit that she’s starting to crack up.

The big problem, for this viewer anyway, is that when the movie finally pulls the trigger on its concept and entirely commits to it, in a scientific procedural way, the story is getting ready to be over. Chung Chung-hoon shimmering, lens-flare-y photography, Page Buckner’s dense and meticulous but never showy production design, and Olga Mills’ costumes go right up to the edge of a sci-fi parable love story (parts of it are reminiscent of “Everything Everywhere All At Once,” particularly the moments when Harriet is triggered by a song and the movie itself seems to be straining and vibrating inside the projector) but don’t quite cross over. 

I wanted it to. I’m admitting that here, even though it’s poor form to dock a movie for not being what you wanted it to be rather than embracing what it is, because what it is becomes repetitive, and without enough real-world messy specificity to make the repetitiousness the point, and the reward, of watching. Austin Crute, who plays Harriet’s best friend Morris, a DJ, keeps sweetly but firmly informing her that she’s stuck in a self-punishing grief loop and needs to get out of it because it’s turned into a sort of horribly twisted “safe place” giving her permission not to move on. The better realistic dramas about grief have either an anthropological level of detail about how and why people feel certain things, or else translate it into bold but easy-to-grasp metaphors (science fiction and horror are particularly adept at this). This one is stuck somewhere between the two, unable to move ahead and make choices, rather like Harriet. I’d applaud the movie for taking the form of its heroine’s pathologies if the result was something more than a good try with a lot of heart.

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