MovieChat Forums > The Greatest Hits (2024) Discussion > James Berardinelli review - **1/2 out of...

James Berardinelli review - **1/2 out of ****

The Greatest Hits is a time-travel movie, but not a conventional one. Instead of someone stepping inside a time machine and emerging at a date in the past, this one involves the transfer of a consciousness into a body at an earlier time. There’s a Slaughterhouse Five vibe here, with dashes of The Time Traveler’s Wife, Everything Everywhere All at Once, and Strange Days thrown in for good measure. Unfortunately, that sounds like a far more appealing stew than what ends up on screen. The 94-minute running time is too skinny to do the premise justice and The Greatest Hits feels like a Cliffs Notes version of a longer, better story. Plus, for a movie that relies on music for its emotional core, the soundtrack is lackluster at best.

As a sci-fi/fantasy, The Greatest Hits has its moments, chief of which is a clever activity by which the lead character, Harriet (Lucy Boynton), proves she’s not delusional. As a love story, however, it never gets off the launching pad. The movie focuses on two romances: the one between Harriet and her deceased lover, Max (David Corenswet, who will soon be seen as Superman when James Gunn reboots the DC universe), and another between Harriet and her current could-be-beau, David (Justin H. Min). Because Harriet remains hung-up on Max, she has trouble moving forward with David, feeling that she’s being unfaithful to a man who hasn’t walked the planet in two years. But for Harriet, it’s not that simple. Her ability to time-travel means she can relive any moment with Max and therefore arguably doesn’t need to do anything with David.

There are limitations to Harriet’s “power.” Her time-travel ability is linked to music. It’s often said that a song can take us back to the first time we heard it. In Harriet’s case, this is literally true. Music involuntarily trips her back to a previous point in her life. She is fully aware of the future in front of her while being in control of her past body. However, although she can change what she says and does, she can’t alter the actions of others. Her chief obsession, preventing Max’s death in an automobile crash, is frustratingly out-of-reach.

Harriet meets David at a grief counseling group. She’s there trying to cope with Max’s absence. He’s there because both his parents died within a short time of one another and he’s having trouble moving on. There’s a spark between Harriet and David but she’s too obsessed with Max to notice it at first and, once she figures out that there might be something there, she’s too frightened to pursue it.

While Ned Benson’s screenplay does an admirable job with the intricate mechanics of the storyline, including an ending that provides a clean sense of closure, he’s not nearly as successful writing/directing the human elements. Despite a fine performance by Lucy Boynton, Harriet remains defined by her grief and obsession. There’s not much else to her character; the introduction of her best friend, a gay D.J. named Morris (Austen Crute), is intended to help flesh out her arc but it fails to achieve that aim. Max is amorphous – we see him only in flashbacks and, as a result, our perception is Harriet’s: an idealized version of someone who lives on in her memories. David is equally shortchanged by the script. Thinly-written, he is accorded a few scenes with his sister to provide him with some background but his relationship with Harriet develops too quickly and awkwardly to be believable.

The music is one of the movie’s big failings. Most of the songs populating the soundtrack are anything but grand or memorable. There’s a sense that the movie would have worked better with a series of anthems (both small and large) crossing the past few decades. What does it say when the strongest impact comes from a karaoke version of 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love?” At a guess, I’d say that budgetary limitations constrained Benson’s choices (recognizable songs can be expensive) but one would expect a movie entitled The Greatest Hits to do a better job in this respect.

Although it’s a brave move to use structural elements of Slaughterhouse Five as the foundation of a rom-com, Benson’s reach exceeds his grasp. The result isn’t unappealing and the actors, especially Boynton and Min, do what they can with underwritten roles but it’s hard not to see that a lot more could have been developed from the premise. The Greatest Hits is more of a middling title than a chart-topper.