Monday, 22 March 2010

A Few Thoughts on The Greatest, Carey Mulligan and Susan Sarandon

I won’t lie that after having been thrilled by Carey in An Education I was anxiously awaiting her next film – I’d only had Never Let Me Go and Wall Street 2 on my radar so in a way The Greatest snuck up on me. The film was filmed some time ago, awaiting distribution for some time. He film was the story of Susan Sarandon and Pierce Brosnan (a surprisingly believable couple) and their journey through and out of grief. Carey Mulligan plays the girlfriend of their dead teenaged son, and the mother of his unborn child. It’s a plot as run of the mill as a hundred, and the attraction of The Greatest is not its story. The thing is: there are some sweet moments in it though. The tale of the reluctant romance between Carey and Aaron Johnson as Bennett (the dead boy) is handled nicely. Sometimes their story – told in flashbacks – resonates more than the present story.
   
I’ve been lamenting that Susan Sarandon deserves a good role. This is not quite it, but she does her best here. She’s always been a valiant actress and the role of the grieving mother is grossly underwritten her, to some effect she’s relegated to playing a stereotype. Shana Feste (who writes and directs) misses the point between subtlety and too little information. The thing is, though, Susan makes the role work. A cringe worthy portion has her ringing a bell whenever she misses her son (a conceit that she manages to sell) and there’s an underdeveloped portion where she loses the bell. The scenario is ridiculous, but she sells the grief and trauma her perfectly. She has a moving scene with Michael Shannon (a cameo) as she tries to retrace the final moments of her son’s life and though it could use some work, it doesn’t occur to me as I watch because Susan is so talented.
Though Susan is a favourite actress of mine, my interest was more piqued at the thought of seeing Carey in a different role. With her pixie haircut (that looks consistently dishevelled) she brings a certain innocence to Rose. The role is devoid of the routine abrasiveness of Jenny, and perhaps of the prodigious way too. She is a bit wise beyond her years and there’s a luminosity about her that’s decidedly attractive. Rest assured, Carey’s no one hit wonder. True, the film is clunky and it prevents from being truly excellent. She’s not. But she manages to excel in a number of scenes. Opposite Susan and especially Pierce she excels, and there’s a particular call a friend pays to her mother where here reactive skills seem on point.
The thing is, The Greatest still isn’t very good. I didn’t feel any disappointment after seeing it, and I didn’t feel as if I’d wasted my money. It’s a harmless film, and I won’t NOT recommend. But it’s not “unmissable”. But it boasts good performances from the entire cast, it’s just not certain what type of film it wants to be.
  
C+

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