A Good Person - Hurt People Hurt People


Lilly Turley reviews the newest Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman vehicle, a match made in heaven!

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By Lilly Turley

The performances in A Good Person so beautifully dance along that precarious line between comedy and tragedy only to take a well-deserved bow at the end, covering that all too familiar theme of ‘hurt people hurt people’.

However, I won’t pretend this story is original by any means. It isn’t. In fact some of its plot points and themes are borderline cliché. But the execution is marvellous. Pugh and Freeman’s performances immerse you in this otherwise fairly predictable tale of self-healing and emotional wellness. Had this been in any other media format, this story would’ve sunk to the bottom of the ocean of more relevant and creative tales: but it is the performances and formal construction of this film that gives it my commendation. It is with no doubt in my mind that Pugh is well on her way to being one of the greatest actors of our generation. This is not only on account of her adaptability as a performer, but also for the way she so effortlessly puts on the mask of a character with such ferocity that you truly believe that is who she is, at least for the 2 or so hours you watch her on screen. Honestly, at this point, Pugh doesn’t need an agent, she needs a chiropractor from carrying the weight of sub-par films far too often (cough, Don’t Worry Darling, cough).

Of course, Freeman falls into the mould of a wise advisor to the protagonist that he seems to have played for most of his career; and of course, this film is not without the classic narrative monologue at the end and the classic act of Freeman helping deliver the protagonist from their Act 2 downfall into their happy ending. I mean, the man did play God. Twice. I suppose the only shock with his character is not due to his performance but rather his written past where the character of Daniel seems to ebb and flow between a kind-souled, healing caregiver to both his granddaughter and Pugh’s character, Allison, and then a man filled with such rage and vengeance, confessing to a violent past that escalated so severely that he beat his son deaf in one ear. I’m sorry, what? This is the same character? I suppose you could argue this highlights the duality of people and how we are one and our past is another but the script is so staccato in showing this that my impression is more that the film was aiming to tick off a checklist of problems to cover in order to deliver emotional impact to a mass audience. Perhaps if you cover all the problems, you’ll get a response from everyone watching. Not a great way to write a film.

One of the film’s most frustrating aspects is its abandonment of the crucial ‘show don't tell’ rule, which should be used essentially to avoid making the audience feel like idiots. Having Pugh’s character look herself in the mirror and state ‘I hate you’ to her reflection and then go on to sing a song literally called ‘I Hate Myself’, I don't know, something tells me that I think we would’ve been able to pick up on Allison’s self-hatred just through her spiralling down a crippling oxycontin addiction and guilt over killing her would-be sister and brother-in-law without her stating it out loud to us.

The pacing of the film is on the slow side but despite this, we spend far too much time on basic exposition rather than relationship development between characters. It’s the classic tale of having to recognise the consequences of your actions despite avoiding doing so for so long. Ultimately, as the film shows, you can’t forgive yourself until you accept the blame. Despite these intense themes however, as is a common occurrence in his work, Pugh’s character Allison still manages to have a specific manic pixie dream girl essence to her (see: her cutting her hair off in a bathroom sink with a pair of nail scissors and then stating ‘I love it’).

As is typical when I watch a film, a heavy amount of my attention is taken by listening to the soundtrack and score and, along with the performances, this is one of the aspects of this film that I can gladly give full praise to. Composed primarily by Bryce Dessner (Two Popes, The Revenant, Dheepan), I had high hopes for the music and was not disappointed. Dessner was the perfect choice of composer to compliment the indie/acoustic genre that the soundtrack went with (very much like Garden State in that respect) as one of his identities as an artist is as a member of the band ‘The National’ alongside his twin brother Aaron Dessner (known for being a major collaborator with Taylor Swift and Jack Antonoff on Swift’s sister albums: Folklore and Evermore).

Ultimately, A Good Person is not a bad film. It’s not a great film either, but I would happily call it a good film. You can pick any film to shreds when you look hard enough, so taking a step back and looking at the film as a whole, it’s enjoyable, sentimental, and cathartic in ways which give you a great movie going experience which, after all, is arguably the most important part.