Susan Sarandon As Yet Another Grieving Mother in The Greatest
Hours after losing his virginity to Rose (Carey Mulligan), his dream girl, 18-year-old Bennett Brewer (Aaron Johnson) dies in a horrific car crash. Three months later, Rose knocks at the Brewer family's front door, pregnant with Bennett's baby and in need of a home. Allen Brewer (Pierce Brosnan), a mathematics professor, welcomes her, but his angry and withdrawn wife, Grace (Susan Sarandon), does not. First-time writer-director Shana Feste has made an uneven but often affecting film that requires its gifted cast to push hard against the script's schematic plotting to find moments of real emotion. A series of flashbacks to Bennett and Rose's courtship contains few words, but is rich in nuance and feeling, thanks to the quivering intensity of Johnson and Mulligan's chemistry, while a late-film confession by Bennett's younger teen brother, beautifully played by Johnny Simmons, provides the film's emotional highlight. Feste, clearly, can write young people, but she has zero insight into married adults. A brave actor if not a technically dazzling one, Brosnan gives a moving performance, but he's constantly undercut by the predictability of Allen's woes and, sad to say, by the overly familiar tics of Sarandon, a sometimes great actor who seems, these days, to always play a grieving mother. Move on, Ms. Sarandon. Please.
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