Sometimes, we all need a good cry in movies. In an industry that’s been prioritizing action of late, there are times when we all need a good, weepy character drama. When you take a dynamic cast and filmmaker that thrives with the schmaltzy, you’re bound for success, right? This is the thought I had going into A Good Person. Is the Florence Pugh-led drama one to bring the tissues for? Or is melodramatic eye-rolling set to ensue?
A Good Person follows a young woman (Florence Pugh) who finds herself alone and floundering after the car she’s driving collides with a tractor killing her future sister-in-law.
When things can’t possibly get any lower, she meets her former father-in-law (Morgan Freeman). The resulting relationship gives both the perspective they desperately need. Celeste O’Connor, Molly Shannon, Zoe Lister-Jones and Chinaza Uche co-star in the movie. Zach Braff directs A Good Person from his script.
This meditation on grief and addiction benefits significantly from its main cast. Florence Pugh burst onto the scene with ferocity over the last few years, and the actress continues to show why she’s one of her generation’s greatest talents.
Similarly, Morgan Freeman elevated himself from being one of the best of his generation to icon status in the last 30 years. His voice alone can shape and define a movie.
A Good Person is made astronomically better by the presence of these two performers. As Allison, Pugh shines in the complexity inherent within this troubled woman. Allison is struggling. The last year hasn’t been easy. However, the actress isn’t phased by the pressure to make this character likable. Allison is an addict, and Pugh refuses to shy away from the drama and baggage coming with her.
Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman brings Daniel to life with smoothness and ease. This is a man who triumphed over many of the same struggles Allison is currently fighting. He fought his way through mighty challenges, from addiction to the death of his daughter. Through him, the film demonstrates that even though someone may be decades into recovery, the specter of addiction always hangs over their heads.
Through all this, though, Daniel is a perfect grandfather. His character is easily likable, and he shines in many of the films’ (albeit rare!) humorous moments. He’s human, he’s fragile, but we love him. He’s Morgan Freeman, after all.
A Good Person features Zach Braff’s return to the director’s chair after 2017’s Going in Style. However, this deeply rooted and introspective addiction drama feels much closer to his work on Garden State. That’s right, the film many millennials were briefly obsessed with, especially if we were “filmy” types.
Ultimately, this is an intimately scaled character drama leaving Braff little to do as a director. Thanks to his dynamic cast, he must point his camera and let the actor steal the show.
With that, though, his style shines through in his love of this world. This is the same small-scale, intimate look at suburban New Jersey that we saw in Garden State.
According to Braff’s filmography, the actor and filmmaker was born in South Orange, where this movie is set. While the story juggles questions of grief and ideas of growing up, the script never feels to be judging this quiet, idyllic area. Instead, there’s a love for this setting, which shows in Braff’s direction.
Ultimately, A Good Person is a heavy-handed melodrama and all that implies. There’s a deep exploration of grief and questions of addiction, leading to a challenging film. It’s not an easy sit, and often the script feels more than a little “on the nose.”
However, the right casting can cover an abundance of sins, and I believe this happens in A Good Person. Morgan Freeman and Florence Pugh are so beautifully dynamic in these lead performances that it’s hard to look away. With different actors in the lead roles, this could have been a far different situation.
A Good Person is not going to be for everyone. However, with something as frenetic and action-packed as John Wick: Chapter 4 playing in other theaters, this serves as intimate and personal counter-programming. This is a still and personal character exploration. If you’re not afraid of a bit of melodrama and are aching to see a traditionally good Florence Pugh performance, you might want to check this out.
A Good Person opens in theaters nationwide on March 24, 2023.
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