The Greatest Hits

The Greatest Hits deals with the power of music in our lives, particularly the way hearing a specific song can trigger memories. The central figure is Harriet (Lucy Boynton), a young woman mourning the death of her boyfriend Max (David Corenswet) in a car accident. When out in public, she wears noise cancelling headphones so she won’t accidentally hear a song that reminds her of Max. If a song does happen to get through, an intense panicked reaction follows. At a grief support group, she meets David (Shortcomings’ Justin H. Min), another griever who takes a romantic interest in her. Harriet has feelings too, but she can’t get Max out of her head.

That’s a good set-up for a movie. Who among us hasn’t begun a new relationship, only to hear a song that painfully reminds us of an ex? Unfortunately, The Greatest Hits has a dumb twist to it. Whenever she hears a song that makes her remember Max, Harriet literally goes back in time to the moment they first heard it. She also believes that if she can find an especially obscure song, it will be possible to go back to the day he died and prevent his demise. This obsession with time-traveling ends up getting in the way of things with David.

Writer/director Ned Benson is clearly trying to achieve the mix of music appreciation and emotion that John Carney perfected in Once, Begin Again, and Sing Street. At times, it works. Boynton makes Harriet a sympathetic character who we want to see heal. Many nice scenes occur between her and David that illustrate the nervousness that often accompanies starting over again with someone new, especially when you haven’t gotten over your former partner. Using pop music to signify important moments in Harriet’s life is a terrific idea, as well. Every single one of us knows how it feels to have a flood of memories wash over you upon hearing a song from the past.

The problem is that the time-travel concept is clunky and half-baked. It clashes with the more sincere attempt to explore the connection between music and memories. The point could be much better made by having Harriet simply become lost in remembrances instead. That would have conveyed the depth of her mourning while simultaneously creating a hurdle for David to get over. Having her travel back in time for real is simply too hokey to work, especially since the film doesn’t even attempt to explain how this is possible.

The Greatest Hits has a lot of potential. Parts of it are very affecting. Why Benson thought the story needed a gimmick is perplexing. With capable actors like Boynton and Min, playing it straight and going for the heart seems like the correct approach, not bogging down the sincere stuff with constantly intruding absurdity.

out of four

The Greatest Hits is rated PG-13 for drug use, strong language, and suggestive material. The running time is 1 hour and 34 minutes.


© 2024 Mike McGranaghan