The Greatest Hits Review

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The Greatest Hits has a phenomenal premise that’s only competently executed. The actors are charming, the cinematography emphasizes the story’s dreamlike sentiment, and it’s hard to say the film is anything less than romantic. With a setup this creative, though, one would expect a modern classic. The characters aren’t nuanced enough for the film to reach its full potential. Director Ned Benson’s screenplay also suffers from pacing issues with some moments dragging and others feeling rushed. The film nonetheless hits just enough right notes, despite not always live up to its premise or title.

Lucy Boynton is given the chance to shine in a lead role, and she certainly illuminates the screen as Harriet. Many of Harriet’s core memories are rooted in music. So much so that when she hears particular songs, Harriet is taken back in time. What seems like a gift is just as much a curse, as Harriet is forced to relive her past trauma. Harriet regularly listened to music with her boyfriend Max (David Corenswet), most notably during a fateful car crash that claimed his life. A playlist of songs transports Harriet to different moments with Max. No matter what she does or says, Harriet can’t seem to prevent Max’s death.

This idea is worthy of a Twilight Zone episode, and the film refreshingly doesn’t spend too much time over-explaining things. Harriet’s powers and motivations are primarily expressed through visual storytelling, dropping us in the middle of her internal struggle. At its best, The Greatest Hits finds the ideal balance between the whimsy and tragedy that its premise offers. Yet, there are a few elements that hold the film back. Namely, Max comes off as too perfect, always having something poetic to say with a grin on his chiseled face. It makes sense that Harriet would want to save this guy at all costs, and while the actors have chemistry, we’d strangely care more about Max if he was flawed.

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Justin H. Min feels more authentic as David, who is also coping with loss. David is cynical, but still sweet and understanding. Although a grief support group is nobody’s first choice for a meet cute, Harriet and David soon have the audience rooting for them. Like Harriet, David can’t bring himself to let go of the past, even if he can’t time travel. As much as Harriet wants to look ahead to the future, she’s continually pulled backward. Sometimes, this is by choice. Other times, she can’t control the music other people play in the background.

For the most part, The Greatest Hits makes clever use of its time travel setup. The plot begins to crumble in the third act, though, as Harriet finds a potential loophole to change the past, albeit at a price. You know the scene in Avengers: Infinity War where Doctor Strange says there’s only one outcome where they beat Thanos? Well, there were arguably other ways that the Avengers could’ve stopped Thanos, and something similar can be said about a choice made in The Greatest Hits. The final destination, while not ineffective, seems forced and raises various questions about the film’s logic. If Benson could turn back time, maybe he’d flesh out some of these script issues. As long as we’re living in the present, there’s still much to appreciate from the performances, craft, and music. Another filmmaking team may want to consider covering this idea down the line, however.

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About Nick Spake

Nick Spake has been working as an entertainment writer for the past ten years, but he's been a lover of film ever since seeing the opening sequence of The Lion King. Movies are more than just escapism to Nick, they're a crucial part of our society that shape who we are. He now serves as the Features Editor at Flickreel and author of its regular column, 'Nick Flicks'.

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