Moving Pictures
Mar 23, 2023, 06:25AM

A Good Person is a Bad Movie

It’s a movie that's overlong, paced horribly, little momentum and cliches about grief, addiction, the opioid crisis and teenage rebellion.

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A Good Person plays like writer-director Zach Braff wanted to give his then-girlfriend, actress Florence Pugh, a role that might get her award contention, with all other considerations secondary. Pugh’s very good, but nothing else about the film makes much sense. It’s a movie that's overlong, paced horribly, little momentum and cliches about grief, addiction, the opioid crisis and teenage rebellion. Pugh stars as Allison, first presented as a beautiful, happy, successful young woman who works as a pharma rep. Engaged to the handsome Nathan (Chinaza Uche) and weighing a move from New Jersey to New York City, she seems set.

But soon there's a fatal car accident, which kills two people and knocks Allison into a pit of Oxy addiction, desperation, and hopelessness. The film conflates this state with being stuck in her North Jersey hometown with an unhelpful alcoholic mom (Molly Shannon), having to interact with the townie guys she held in contempt in high school, and sporting a short, unflattering haircut. To what exact degree Allison is responsible for the accident is one of many questions the film fumbles.

Allison soon runs into Daniel (Morgan Freeman), the estranged father of her ex-fiancée, who’s struggling to raise his orphaned teenage granddaughter Ryan (Celeste O'Connor, from the fine indie film Saleh and the Spades). As Daniel’s a recovering alcoholic, the two form an uneasy bond, which has twists and turns over the course of the movie's 129 minutes. If there's one thing A Good Person gets right, it's that it makes the characters into different people, before and after the accident. Pugh transforms completely, while we see Ryan as a happy young teenager. While Pugh slides into addiction, Ryan’s drug is more rage and cruelty.

Braff directed Freeman in the odious old-guys-as-robbers comedy Going in Style back in 2017, and the 85-year-old legend gives a decent turn here, while Pugh is outstanding, and her American accent is believable (she even sings).

As for everything else, Braff gives the impression of a director who doesn’t know what he’s doing, and hasn’t the slightest idea how to pace a movie. Many scenes are extraneous and laughs pop up at times where they don’t belong. Braff’s debut film was 2004’s Garden State, one of those movies that I enjoyed at the time buthave a hunch I’d probably despise it today. Here, he returns to Jersey and succeeds in giving the Essex County suburbs a sense of place.

The geography is another matter, as there’s one scene in which a character’s able to drive from South Orange, New Jersey, to Williamsburg, Brooklyn, on a weekend night, and it appears to take him about 10 minutes. Everything else in this movie is too slow, but that’s way too fast. 


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