The Greatest Hits review — Ned Benson’s sweet return

Written and Directed by Ned Benson | 94 min | ▲▲▲△△ | Disney+

I was unreasonably excited to check out this movie. It’s from Ned Benson, who directed a wildly ambitious but criminally underseen drama from about 10 years ago called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby starring Jessica Chastain, Viola Davis and James McAvoy. It’s a deeply dark exploration of the dissolving of a New York couple’s marriage after trauma. It explores depression and grief,land it’ll make you weep, and I love it all out of proportion. It’s especially ambitious because it was shot to be two movies, His and Hers versions of events, but some asshole named Weinstein cut it together as one and didn’t do much to promote it. Benson has been flying under the radar since, though he did some screenwriting work with Marvel on Black Widow, which maybe helped him get this made.

With The Greatest Hits he’s moved out to California and cast a younger crowd than his debut, though equally fetching and grief-stricken.

The always charming Lucy Boynton (Sing Street) is Harriet Gibbons. It’s been two years since the most devastating moment in her young life, when her boyfriend Max (future Superman David Corenswet) was killed in a car accident. She hasn’t gotten over it, despite the support of good friend and DJ, Morris (Austin Crute, a Booksmart veteran) and group therapy leader Dr Bartlett (Retta). Of course, she meets someone new, David (Justin H. Min), and she’s got to come to terms with the ghosts of the past.

What’s been happening with her is when she hears a song that she and Max once listened to, she time travels back into her body in the past for the length of the song, so gets to spend time again with Max in different periods of their relationship. She listens to the song that was playing in the car the day he was killed, but even in the car with him she can’t convince him to avoid the collision. She can’t change others’ decisions, only her own.

As an allegory for how grief can get its claws into your psyche, this isn’t bad, you know? It’s not a far cry from Richard Curtis’ romantic, flawed About Time, except you’re never much in doubt that Harriet’s “spells” of time travel are just a product of her state of mind. Well, at least, I wasn’t — even when the movie tries to convince me otherwise. Any time it tries to be a science fiction, I didn’t buy it, because that aspect of the picture doesn’t really pay off in an interesting way.

However, the soundtrack of fantastic tunes helps a lot to carry the day, featuring luminaries like Lana Del Rey, The The, Jamie XX, Nelly Furtado, Roxy Music, and Phoebe Bridgers covering the Cure.

Boynton is a fully fledged screen presence, you can’t take your eyes off her, but as Harriet she’s so stuck, still, and stolid. It’s like she’s frozen in amber, which, while entirely plausible for her character, you do wish that the script gave her more opportunities for joy in either the past or the present.

Benson really enjoys his lens flare in the photography, which I could live without, but otherwise the The Greatest Hits is a sweet, summerly Los Angeles movie touching on heavy subjects without going too deep.  Even when it’s being a bit obvious in its approach it still manages to cast a spell.

About the author


Carsten Knox is a massive, cheese-eating nerd. In the day he works as a journalist in Halifax, Nova Scotia. At night he stares out at the rain-slick streets, watches movies, and writes about what he's seeing.