Review: ‘The Greatest Hits’

Despite Their Music-Loving Filmography, Justin H. Min And Lucy Boynton Can't Save Ned Benson's Sophomore Feature

Hulu’s latest film, The Greatest Hits, takes the idea that music can take you back in time literally. Bohemian Rhapsody heroine Lucy Boynton plays a grief-ridden young librarian living in Los Angeles.  She spends her days attending a support group led by a well-meaning therapist (Retta), mourning her boyfriend (David Corenswet), and blaming herself for his death. Of course, everything changes when she meets a fellow millennial on his own healing journey. 

While one would think this cinematic exploration of the mourning process ends in a happily ever after, there’s also an element of time travel. Though it’s not explained well, every time Harriet (Boynton) hears a song that she has heard before she gets transported into the past. Only her actions have any ramifications on the future, not anyone else’s despite her numerous tries to keep her boyfriend alive. Of course, David (Justin H. Min), having recently lost both his parents, complicates Harriet’s plans to rewrite history and has her rethinking her relationship with her partner and music. 

You may know the film’s writer/director, Ned Benson, from The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, an ambitious three-film saga starring Jessica Chastain and James McAvoy about the dissolution of a marriage told from three perspectives. In the ten years since he’s been credited once with a “story by” credit on Black Widow. He’s jumping back in with The Greatest Hits, adding the introspective sadness of his first film with some of the sci-fi elements of his MCU credit. 

This film is a downer. It could be Boynton’s tepid reactions or the general sense of insular melancholy that taints the whole film but there’s very little joy in Benson’s script. When there’s no joy – no tangible emotional beat to fight for – you question the film’s entire purpose. 

Even the musical sequences feel taxing and not cinematically freeing as we’ve seen in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which touts similar themes. Despite songs from Roxy Music, Nelly Furtado, Peggy Lee, and bikini, The Greatest Hits doesn’t gain any momentum from its soundtrack. Justin H. Min, who was so captivating in After Yang and The Umbrella Academy, isn’t given much to do as the love interest other than serve the white female protagonist. That wouldn’t matter so much if her character was captivating in any way and if there wasn’t as much emphasis on Harriet’s circumstances. 

Not to drive home the wasted potential here, but both Min and Boynton are known for projects that are immersed with music. The Umbrella Academy is filled with needle drops from “I Think We’re Alone Now” to “Footloose.” Boynton made a name for herself in the Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. This should be in their wheelhouse. Instead, The Greatest Hits is a by-the-book, mundane love story we’ve seen – and heard– before.

The Greatest Hits is available on Hulu. Watch the trailer below.

The Greatest Hits
A D.C area native, Cortland has been interested in media since birth. Taking film classes in high school and watching the classics with family instilled a love of film in Cortland’s formative years. Before graduating with a degree in English and minoring in Film Study from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania, Cortland ran the college’s radio station, where she frequently reviewed films on air. She then wrote for another D.C area publication before landing at Punch Drunk Critics. Aside from writing and interviewing, she enjoys podcasts, knitting, and talking about representation in media.
greatest-hits-review-the-greatest-hitsNed Benson creates a sappy and mundane love story from an interesting premise. ;