The Greatest Hits

The Greatest Hits
The Greatest Hits
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Music has been an essential part of romance in movies, as well as in reality, to be sincere, few can bear complete auditory incongruity. Tom Waits and Nina Simone in Bad Timing, Coldplay and The Shins in Garden State, “As Time Goes By” from Casablanca (where Rick is almost shouting it out loud like a death sentence; “play it again”, his words sound like a death) show examples of this. The same story happens in every scene in High Fidelity. Maybe that’s why music can speak out emotions for us so we don’t have to; the singer you don’t see can lament or extol without shame and we get it. Anyhow, The Greatest Hits is concerned about obsession.

This new film, just premiered at South by Southwest, feels like the continuation of those romantic dramedies that were ubiquitous around the turn of the millennium. In 2001 iPod had just been invented thereby making music even more private and intimate than ever before. Thus, movies such as Garden State , Lost In Translation , (500 Days Of Summer), Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind , Juno , Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist had strictly selected soundtracks where characters often exchanged their music with one another as an invitation to openness or commitment. Here The Greatest Hits draws on all these films a little too much (a Roxy Music song and karaoke scene feels a bit too much like Lost in Translation), but it definitely sticks its landing.

Though its characters are weakly developed, it is an enthralling sweet emotional love story with great performances and what not…a wonderful soundtrack too. This also speaks about how important that great soundtrack was based on the fact that allegory of synesthesia where a sensory element triggers memories is taken literally and to most extreme point here. In Ned Benson’s film titled The Greatest Hits woman finds herself back within time going through key episodes of her links with her deceased boyfriend, every time she listens to specified songs that they had played together. A music-evoked autobiographical memory is a great hook that speaks to grief, loss, and the inability to move on, a battle between hope and sadness elucidated by Dylan Thomas:

Harriet (Lucy Boynton) works at a library and reads books alone at lunch. She hardly ever takes off her headphones except when she is with Jayme (a DJ who has the perfect loft and always invites Harriet out). She goes to meetings for people grieving individuals. She drinks at home and sleeps in late whenever possible without making any difference in her beautiful look. Yes, this is a way of life which only an author could create, the biggest disappointment in The Greatest Hits. Harriet seems like someone’s female romantic idea.

Poor Harriet. Suffice it to say that film doesn’t pass Bechdel Test as Harriet always either goes around with her dead boyfriend Max or develops something more serious with David (Justin H.Min). Luckily enough, Boynton does an amazing job playing this part while the story moves so quickly towards its hooks that you forget how underdeveloped this character actually is (and all others too).

Boynton is a versatile chameleon actor, who really does everything: she takes on the despair and sadness of Harriet without ever getting too far. She’s perfect, and some close-ups of her face can shatter your heart, or mend it once again.

Who is this guy? Where did he come from? How good is he? Justin H. Min plays David, whom Harriet meets at a meeting for people in similar situations as her own. Both his parents are dead and all he has left is his sister along with the family shop. Being two of the only young people at their cancer support group, they inevitably click quickly due to either bad writing or movie fate and obviously through music (Roxy Music).

Min is incredibly subtle and gentle. He manages to give great sadness to something quiet, flat or simply (as here) … also as in After Yang; similarly, he can completely pick up on how snobbishness and general cuntishness are often mixed up with sophistication or kindness (as here) … likewise as in Beef. As a result, he does an amazing job as a grieving man who falls in love with someone that thinks she is going insane.

However, much like Harriet, David remains mostly undefined except for his mourning aspect. In short these two characters are characterized by nothing but loss. They have no substance beyond being mere outlines; anything further we know about them appears like sketches. No matter how many times you use it trying to film someone listening to music should not be called an exposition.At least the music was good though.

Like Garden State soundtrack The Greatest Hits’ curated tunes spans decades and genre yet captures some kind of consistent tone. It’s a lot more optimistic and zesty than the songs from The Greatest Hits.As examples Niki and the Dove’s “Play It on the Radio,” Yellow Days’ “Gap in the Clouds,” Phoebe Bridgers doing “Friday I’m in Love” along with some Beach House and Lana Del Rey are all pretty good. However, it’s nice to see a wider selection than just 2010s indie rock.

The film expertly commences with the uplifting 1983 hit from The The entitled “This Is the Day”, which is quite unexpected as well. Also, Roxy Music being included is another pleasant surprise – and while this kind of smells like that Bill Murray/Scarlet Johansson movie, it’s kind of refreshing to have a remixed extended version of their “I’d do Anything to Turn You On” here; an appropriately modern twist on a sexy classic like that.

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