The Greatest Hits- SXSW 2024

March 16th, 2023




Being a romantic has always been a part of me. I picked it up from my mother when she introduced me to musicals, such as Oklahoma!, Singin’ in the Rain, or The Music Man, where falling in love was the only thing that mattered. In those specific movies, falling in love meant singing your heart out, and that’s because music is the best way to express our feelings. The Greatest Hits is a new romantic drama that tries to merge time travel through music, connecting a lover from the past, while contemplating a lover in the present. Although most time travel stories can be complicated, The Greatest Hits doesn’t seem to care about the science of time travel, and that makes for a record spinning without a tune.

As I write this, I am sad that I didn’t enjoy The Greatest Hits. Typically a movie about love and music is right up my alley. Most movies work when the wonderful Lucy Boynton is in the lead, where her beauty radiates on screen, while memories of her work in Sing Street elicit fond memories. Unfortunately, all of those warm thoughts fade away, not because her performance is bad, but because she’s trapped in a film with more plot holes bigger than a snare drum. The romance could work, but things become much too noisy when it veers back into time travel.

We first meet Harriet (Boynton) in the car’s front seat with boyfriend Max (soon-to-be Superman David Corenswet) driving and conversing about the song on the radio. Suddenly, a car slams into them, smashing the windows, followed by a bright light, and Harriet is then sent back to her present time. The accident left her in a coma, but ever since she came out of it, if she hears a song that she was listening to with Max, it sends her back in time to that exact moment. This places Harriet on a journey to find the song at the precise time when she can change that moment, saving Max, the man she loves, from that fateful car crash. Sounds easy but she can’t find the right tune and when she meets David (Justin Min from Shortcomings) her life becomes a love triangle between her grief and moving on, a choice she can’t make on her own.

The writing and direction of The Greatest Hits is from Ned Benson, who famously made the three points of view trilogy in The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, which explains and continues his passion for weaving love stories and music. Where those three films displayed at least a fascinating project of artistic expression, The Greatest Hits lacks in going beyond its initial premise. One doesn’t like to poke holes into a plot, but it feels painfully obvious when Harriet’s character discovers what she should do or how she can change the past. There have been many films about the way time and fate change our destiny, even Past Lives contemplated the what-ifs of love, but this becomes contrived and not entirely thought out.

That’s not to say that both Boynton and Min don’t have a charming chemistry together. The Greatest Hits is a bit of a Sliding Doors meets a Jukebox Musical, but the songs are a mix of deeper cuts, and pop songs introducing an audience to music they may have never heard. I dig that part, but the process, the back and forth of the story feels constantly contrived. There is the subplot of how we deal with grief and a great gentleness to Boynton who is lovely to be with and yet, it’s all so predictable. I believe that music can transcend us back into a place or time but The Greatest Hits takes us to a movie where we know how it ends.



Written by: Leo Brady

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