THE GREATEST

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The Greatest?  If only L

First time director Shana Fest wastes an incredibly talented cast on a maudlin story chock full of plot holes.  Carey Mulligan stars as a “Rose,” a high school virgin who makes love with a classmate & then boom: he’s killed in a car crash & she learns she’s pregnant.  My Juno nightmare has come true—all those Juno Oscar nominations have opened a door for cloying waif films.  Oy!

Susan Sarandon, playing the boy’s mother “Grace,” tries to rebel when Rose appears out of nowhere expecting to be adopted (at least thru the birth of this unexpected grandchild).  But Grace is overruled by her husband “Allen” (Pierce Brosnan) who finds the promise of new life in Rose’s swelling belly preferable to his wife’s obsessive grief.  Add in the misadventures of screwed-up younger son “Ryan” (Johnny Simmons), & the Brewer family is poised & ready for redemption by Madonna & child.

But look beyond the schematic set-up, & there’s literally no there there.  The Brewers live in a large comfortable home somewhere in suburban New Jersey, so when Rose moves in, there’s a convenient spare room just waiting empty for her.  She doesn’t intrude on Ryan’s space, and she never disturbs the shrine Grace has made of Bennett’s room.  The Brewers also have a beach house in Atlantic City.

After Bennett dies, Allen makes a halfhearted attempt to continue on as a college math professor.  Grace, on the other hand, is never assigned a professional life of any kind.  But Bennett and Rose meet as students at an upscale private school.  Curlish me, I kept wondering where all the money was coming from?  So maybe the Brewers do have magic movie money, but the screenplay requires Rose to be totally without resources.  Her mother is a junkie and her only friend is a beautician she works for part time.  So where did Rose live before landing on the Brewers’ doorstep, & who paid her school tuition?

And then there’s the weather, which annoyed me even more than the money.  The specified timeframe goes from insemination in June to birth in March, and yet there’s never any snow.  New Jersey in winter… but no snow…  That’s how much thought went into creating backstory details that might make these lives seem feel.  Proof positive, that The Greatest is actually set in a movie LaLaLand that prides itself in its own emotionality.

Maybe I should mention that our great Chicago actor Michael Shannon is also in this film, but his character is so bogus I can’t make myself describe it.  And yet, this film was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.  What were those folks smoking?!?

According to IMDb, Shana Fest is now working on a new film with Gwyneth Paltrow and Tim McGraw.  I live in hope.

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