Saturday, April 3, 2010

Movie with Abe: The Greatest

The Greatest
Directed by Shana Feste
Released April 2, 2010

Movies about personal tragedies and the way they affect the people close to a victim are a difficult subject to really get right. Often the trauma can be overdone and overemphasized to the point that it becomes melodrama, and it can also be woefully underrepresented and therefore severely lacking in the sympathy it is supposed to be producing. “The Greatest,” which chronicles a family’s attempts to cope with the sudden untimely death of their teenage son in a car accident and their new relationship with his grieving girlfriend, manages to be successful on all fronts and tell a compelling and moving story.

One of the most significant descriptors of “The Greatest” is that it’s Carey Mulligan’s follow-up role to her Oscar-nominated breakout turn in “An Education.” Mulligan showed enormous potential with her wondrous performance in last year’s British drama, and her subsequent role was obviously going to be spectacular, and it’s not a disappointment at all. She’s easily as good, if not better, as the girl who must struggle to be accepted by the family of a boy she loved but barely knew. It’s a majestically layered and tremendous performance that deserves to earn her another Oscar nomination.

Mulligan is moving fast and smartly in terms of her acting career, and she’s even outpacing veteran actors. Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon star as the couple mourning the loss of their son, and while their performances are not nearly as strong or consistent as Mulligan’s, they definitely have their moments. Each has at least one mesmerizing scene, and the rest of their performances don’t minimalize the impact of the film at all because their characters are very strongly written. Young actors Johnny Simmons and ZoĆ« Kravitz are more impressive standouts, and contribute to making the film feel devastatingly real.

Director Sharon Feste has struck gold on her first trip behind the camera. This is a remarkable debut that showcases excellent direction and writing from Feste, and she really knows how to work with the actors and maximize the intensity and successful execution of the story she wants to tell. She doesn’t pull any cheap tricks to force an emotional response from her viewer. The story and the scenes are all legitimate and powerful on their own. Feste’s film is an extraordinarily effective film that is both heart-wrenching and extremely emotional in the best possible way, featuring another knockout performance from rising star Carey Mulligan.

B+

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