Musical Sci-Fi The Greatest Hits Is Slightly Off-Key

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Musical Sci-Fi The Greatest Hits Is Slightly Off-Key

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you could use niche vinyls to time travel? Okay, you probably haven’t, but on the off chance that you have, The Greatest Hits is the movie for you. Directed by Ned Benson, who most recently helmed The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, this film follows Harriet (Lucy Boynton), a young music enthusiast who discovers that certain songs can transport her back to a time before the sudden death of her beloved boyfriend Max (David Corenswet). In an attempt to bring Max back to life, Harriet embarks on a quest to find a song that will take her back to the moments leading up to his fatal car crash. Things get a little complicated, however, when she meets a brooding young man named David (Justin H. Min) in her grief counseling group, and he strikes a chord in her heart right away. Will Harriet stick to her guns and continue to try to save Max’s life? Or will David teach her to embrace the present?

The Greatest Hits boasts a compelling and original high-concept plot, but, as can be the case with high concept plots, this leads to much of the film’s first act being occupied by exhausting exposition. Even more unfortunate is the fact that a good portion of the exposition in question is shouldered by Harriet’s best friend, Morris (Austin Crute), who has already been cursed with playing the quirky best friend caricature that you’ve seen in at least a thousand movies before this one. Boynton’s character is slightly more palatable, although she isn’t given much to do other than brood over her ex. (Side note: she also wears headphones everywhere she goes to avoid being triggered by a song in the wild, yet she still somehow hears everything anyone around her says. Hmmm.) In all seriousness, though—after powerhouse performances in films like Sing Street and Bohemian Rhapsody, Boynton’s recent career has been something of a letdown. Someone cast her in another complex role, damnit!

Still, if you can find it in your heart to forgive The Greatest Hits‘ one-dimensional characters—and the fact that the film takes place in some bizarre alternate reality where everyone still listens to records—you’ll find yourself enjoying a heartwarming and, at times, gripping love story. And while it can come across as heavy-handed, the film does have some interesting insights into the power that music has to connect us.

It’s a shame, then, that The Greatest Hits loses steam quickly—or never really picks up steam to begin with. This has to do, in part, with the fact that it is difficult to ever fully connect with Harriet because her flashbacks with Max aren’t particularly romantic. Sure, we have the tried-and-true guy-picks-up-girlfriend-while-swimming-in-the-ocean montage moment, but Max seems like a grump. In the context of a different film, a viewer might think that Harriet is attempting to pinpoint the moment she realized her boyfriend was having an affair.

Similarly, Harriet and David’s chemistry is often lacking. Only a seriously strong initial connection could keep a guy interested in a girl who sprints out of a first date because a song comes on in the coffee shop, and these two just don’t have it.

And—okay, admittedly, I probably shouldn’t even go here—but the time travel stuff is pretty confusing. Granted, The Greatest Hits isn’t exactly trying to be Interstellar, but the science behind the film is a bit of a head scratcher. Harriet appears in each flashback with the knowledge of her present self, begging the question: Did she always know her boyfriend was going to die? But, I digress. To focus more on what The Greatest Hits is actually attempting to accomplish, the film certainly does succeed in some aspects. It’s a solid conceit and a functional—albeit stiff—love story. But when all is said and done, a story about someone attempting to bring the love of their life back from the dead should probably contain a little bit more vibrato.

Director: Ned Benson
Writer: Ned Benson
Stars: Lucy Boynton, Justin H. Min, David Corenswet, Austin Crute
Release Date: April 5, 2024 (Hulu)

Aurora Amidon is a film journalist and passionate defender of Hostel: Part II. Follow her on Twitter for her latest questionable culture takes.

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