Lucy Boynton and David Corenswet share an embrace in The Greatest Hits | Agents of Fandom

SXSW 2024: Time-Travel Rom-Com ‘The Greatest Hits’ Can’t Find Its Rhythm

‘The Greatest Hits’ fails to turn up the volume on its time-travel rom-com narrative.

Forming a film around the construct of time travel was a recurring theme at this year’s SXSW festival — with my favorite film of the fest, Omni Loop, exploring the same narrative — and The Greatest Hits is no different. The combination of music, time travel, romantic happenstances, and deep-cut needle drops meld together to form a whimsical rom-com that should be better than it actually is.

‘The Greatest Hits’ Is Held Up by a Great Soundtrack & Performances

Harriet (Lucy Boynton) is navigating the life-changing trauma she incurred after getting into a car accident with her boyfriend, Max (David Corenswet), 2 years ago. After Max passes away from the car accident, Harriet discovers that music doesn’t only transport her emotionally but offers her a physical chance to travel back in time to the very first time she heard a song with Max.

Naturally, Harriet begins to navigate a path with the potential to change the past so the car accident never happened. With piles and piles of records, both tested and unlistened to, she consistently transports herself back to moments in time in which she not only has to come face to face with a reality that is centered around Max but with the potential to find the perfect moment in which Max’s obsession with music isn’t ignited. Each journey into the past declares emotions of both hope and grief, opening a small portal to a purely unique ability to process her grief as she gets to directly ask Max about their life together and what might have been.

All the while, apprehensive in public and wearing large headphones to prevent herself from hearing songs and being transported back in time, Harriet begins to fall for David (Justin H. Min). Averse to love, she is coy and timid, withdrawing from meaningful conversation and never explaining her sci-fi-inspired time travel situation. As she and David begin to grow closer to one another, Harriet is left pondering, not if she can change the past, but if she should change the past.

Lucy Boynton and Justin H. Min have admirable chemistry on screen, with their sweet and shy personalities blossoming when near each other. Funny when it needs to be and poignant when it wants to be, the film doesn’t quite give Corenswet, who is a great addition to the movie, enough to work with.

Offering juxtaposing energy to that of Harriet and David, Max’s relationship with Harriet is explored in bits and pieces that, while frequent, never quite strike the crucial cord they are trying to play. The consistently cool needle drops (several of which I didn’t know, proving I need to listen to better music in general) mixed with the fun concept of time-traveling and the power of music do deliver an enjoyable watch but sadly amount to little more than that.

‘The Greatest Hits’ Is Charming at Best

Harriet (Lucy Boynton, right) begins to strike up a romantic relationship with David (Justin H. Min, left) in a record shop in The Greatest Hits I Agents of Fandom
It’s not cheating if your ex is technically dead…right? Image Credit: Searchlight Pictures.

Influenced very clearly by the likes of films from John Hughes, Cameron Crowe, and Richard Linklater, The Greatest Hits feels like it is trying too hard to pay homage to the greats. Enlisting a killer soundtrack and a principal human affliction of longing to change the past to produce a particular future at its core works, but it ultimately feels generic, refusing to make a stand on what the most meaningful moments of the film mean. As Harriet queries, “Does not remembering mean it didn’t happen?”

A thought-provoking, even powerful theme to place at the center of a film that is a fun take on time travel and love stories, but never really gets answered, leaving the movie feeling average at best. Receiving a limited theatrical release by Searchlight Pictures on April 5th before hitting the streaming service Hulu on April 12th confirms the unfortunate ordinary aura The Greatest Hits emits.

The Greatest Hits, while not a greatest hit in itself, brings enough to the mixing table to provide a fun time. An exploration of how to process grief wrapped in a cute romantic comedy shell (that stars hot people!), the movie proves to be just fine, leaving its potential for potency on the cutting room floor along with all of the records Harriet never had time to test.

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'The Greatest Hits' SXS@ 2024 Review

'The Greatest Hits' SXS@ 2024 Review
2 5 0 1
2.0 rating
Total Score

The Good

  • Lucy Boynton brings a warm energy to the movie that is fun to be around.
  • You'll get some great song recommendations from the soundtrack!

The Bad

  • Romance feels contrived while the script feels stiff and robotic.
  • Fails to commit to a theme, leaving the film coming across as meaningless.
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