It Could Have Been Great
"The Greatest" is a frustrating movie because it is good, sounds a strange thing to say but this is a movie with a good storyline and a lot of great talent but all that comes of it is something good not great and it should have been great. The storyline itself with a family struggling to cope with the death of their son is a platform for some great emotional drama, throw in the dead son's pregnant girlfriend and you have even more scope for drama and emotion. But what you end up getting are some great scenes, some great ideas but a lot of mediocrity which makes it feel very disjointed, in need of more power to bring the emotion of the situation to life.
Rose (Carey Mulligan) and Bennett (Aaron Johnson) had passed each other every day for years, they never spoke but both wanted to but never did until Bennett finally plucked up the courage. They were in love, but after one night of passion tragedy strikes when a car accident kills Bennett. 3 months later and Bennett's family are struggling with their grief, his father Allen (Pierce Brosnan - Mamma Mia!) is bottling up everything, his mother Grace (Susan Sarandon - Mr. Woodcock) is desperate know what her son said and how he was in those dying moments and his brother Ryan (Johnny Simmons) is in denial and in need of parental guidance and care. Enter Rose who shows up at their home and tells them she is pregnant with Bennett's child and whilst it adds to the stress of a home split by grief maybe her showing up is the best thing, even if they don't all think so.
Now I will guarantee that if you watch "The Greatest" it will grab your attention for the first 10 minutes, not just because we have a sex scene between Carey Mulligan and Aaron Johnson but because of the intensity of what happens immediately after. Trust me you don't want to be doing something else during the first 10 minutes because this high impact stuff.
What follows on from these opening scenes is basically an exploration of grief with Grace Brewer unable to let go, desperate to know whether her son suffered in those dying minutes, whether he called out for her and what he said. So desperate is she that she waits around in the hospital room of the driver of the other car who is unconscious, reading and caring for him as she is desperate for him to come to so she can ask him what happened. Then there is Allen who is bottling everything up, unable to sleep, unable to express his grief not even able to talk about his son in fear that it will open the floodgates. And there is Ryan, Bennett's brother who is in a state of denial, not that his brother is dead but how he felt about him. These three people are isolated unable to be there for each other as they struggle to deal with their grief in their own ways.
But we also have Rose who after sleeping with Bennett just the one time, on the night he died enters their lives 3 months pregnant and she is the catalyst for some change. Her presence is a comfort to Ryan as she treats him normally, whilst she tries to bring Allen around to talking about Bennett. Her only trouble is Grace who resents her being there, being part of the family and blames her for her son's death.
Now the thing about "The Greatest" is that this storyline should be highly emotional and highly charged as we have this home, this family struggling to deal with grief. The trouble is that whilst there are moments when it is both highly emotional and highly charged they are fleeting moments, individual scenes in a sea of almost nothingness. It feels like director and writer Shana Feste was trying to deliver restraint and realism in the way people interact, be it Allen desperately trying to carry on or Ryan making a friend at a counselling session. But it doesn't work, I suppose it's because it feels like there should be more drama and without it seems to be lacking something. It also means when we do get those highly emotional scenes it feels almost over the top.
And it is a shame as the entire cast are good actors and each get their moments to shine often in the smallest of scenes. Seeing Pierce Brosnan sitting there in bed just waiting for the alarm to go off, unable to sleep speaks volumes of his struggles as does his constant subject changing when ever Bennett's name is mentioned. Susan Sarandon is just as good be it when she wakes up and immediately cries or when she struggles with having Rose in the home because deep down she represents the taking away of her son. I could go on because Carrey Mulligan is just as good as Rose as is Johnny Simmons as Ryan but these moments where they really shine end up being fleeting because the script at times seems to be almost tumbling along with no purpose.
What this all boils down to is that "The Greatest" is entertaining to watch because of the interesting storyline and the performances of the stars. But you get a feeling that something is lacking which makes it not quite gel, floating along when it is screaming out for more emotion and drama.