Anchor Bay // 2009 // 92 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Franck Tabouring (Retired) // January 19th, 2010
Sometimes, the answers are right in front of you.
It's been a while since we've last seen Hilary Duff in a leading role onscreen, but the former Lizzie McGuire star is back in action. In Nancy Bardawil's straight-to-DVD romantic drama According to Greta, Duff slips into the role of a troubled teenager dealing with personal issues over summer break at her grandparents' home. The result, however, it not as inspiring or interesting as it sounds.
Duff plays Greta, a rebellious 17-year-old teen whose mother forces her to spend the summer at her grandparents' place in a small New Jersey community. Unable to show the least bit of excitement, Greta greets grandma Katherine (Ellen Busrtyn) and grandpa Joseph (Michael Murphy) with the news that she plans on killing herself once she turns 18. Suicide is definitely on her to-do list, and, believe it or not, she seems pretty serious about it.
Before Greta gets a shot at taking her own life though, she first engages in a romantic relationship with Julie (Evan Ross), a young cook with a dark background who tries to help Greta appreciate life a little more. All of a sudden, spending the summer in a boring town doesn't seem to be that boring after all, considering Greta gets a second chance to evaluate her existence and revise that shockingly macabre to-do list of hers.
Greta, oh Greta! While the idea of a teenager planning to commit suicide sounds like a serious subject that can be treated with a lot of care and detail in a movie, According to Greta takes that concept and pretty much tears it apart early on. Let me put it this way: I caught myself having a really hard time taking anything Greta says in this film seriously. The reason for this is the mix of Duff's rather silly performance and a whole bunch of bad screenwriting.
The script by Michael Gilvary is by far the film's biggest flaw. The characters we observe onscreen suffer from detrimental shallowness. Duff especially tries incredibly hard to come across as the tough teen who acts all cool talking about killing herself, but she actually ends up being more unconvincing and annoying than authentic. Duff's performance improves a bit later on in the film when Greta gets more emotional, but the road there is long and rather devoid of surprises.
According to Greta is standard melodramatic stuff. While there are a few movies out there in which saccharine material actually works, this one is certainly not one of them. Superficial dialogue and a whole series of predictable turns prevent this film from giving off an good, energetic vibe, and Greta's transition from a deeply troubled teenager to a young woman able to enjoy her life feels rushed and ends up lacking credibility.
Gilvary obviously had good intentions and a clear message he wanted to convey when he wrote the script. Somewhere along the way, it all merged with and eventually got overshadowed by all those cheesy moments and clichés nearly every film in this particular genre is plagued with. I know this is not supposed to be a heavy drama targeting a more mature audience, but that doesn't mean it can't have more depth to it.
In According to Greta, however, everything goes way too fast, and before you got a chance to breathe, you suddenly realize you just saw Duff's character meet and kiss a dude, get involved with the cops, hang out in utterly creepy neighborhoods, stress out her grandmother, and learn a bunch of lessons helping her to stop the suicide silliness and act like a normal teenager appreciating what good she has in life. That's a lot to accomplish in less than 90 minutes.
I understand Duff intends to break away from all these safe, harmless Disney roles, and to be honest, I believe she's got what it takes to tackle more serious stuff. For instance, I really loved her provocative performance in War, Inc.. Given the right material, I am sure Duff is totally capable of surprising her viewers. According to Greta, however, does not supply her with the good stuff I want to see her handle. The same goes for most of the supporting cast, which fails to stand out but gets a bit better towards the end of the film. As a matter of fact, several things improve as we get closer and closer to the end credits.
Anchor Bay delivers a technically decent version of According to Greta, and the disc's 1.85:1 widescreen presentation boasts a clean, sharp image quality loaded with often warm enough colors. The audio transfer worked fine for me as well, even though most of the dialogue itself was tough to endure. That said, I sure can't complain too much about the film's technical aspects.
Besides an uninteresting alternate ending and a few deleted and alternate scenes, the bonus material on the disc also includes a behind-the-scenes featurette in which cast and crew share their thoughts about their characters, the story, and the making of the film in general. I failed to enjoy this documentary primarily because the feature film disappointed me that much, but for those satisfied with the film, this piece will definitely give them a deeper insight into how According to Greta made it to DVD.
According to Greta could've been a better movie with a better script, better directing, and better performances, but if you're looking for one of those simplistic teenage romance dramas about a deeply troubled girl turning her life around in a fast, unrealistic way, this is definitely your film. I can only hope Hilary Duff will find better material next time.
Guilty. Greta, you're so grounded!
Review content copyright © 2010 Franck Tabouring; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 92 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Alternate Ending
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site