The Austin Chronicle

A Good Person

Rated R, 125 min. Directed by Zach Braff. Starring Florence Pugh, Morgan Freeman, Celeste O’Connor, Molly Shannon, Chinaza Uche, Zoe Lister-Jones, Alex Wolff.

REVIEWED By Kimberley Jones, Fri., March 24, 2023

A Good Person is set squarely in the present – distracted driving and oxycodone addiction are both major plot points – but constitutionally it’s an old-fashioned film, cut from the cloth of a now-unfashionable genre, the melodrama. And the thing with melodramas is, no matter how preposterous the plot contrivances are, or how wincing the big swoops at tearjerking become, you’ll follow a film anywhere if the cast is good enough. Writer/director Zach Braff has not one ace in the hole but two: Florence Pugh and Morgan Freeman.

Pugh plays Allison, a young woman we meet briefly in happier times before a car accident results in two deaths and upends her life. The film cuts to one year later, the first of several extreme time jumps or montages that scurry past opportunities for conflict and character revelation. Allison, who was the driver in the accident, is now at seeming rock-bottom, living at home with her mother (Shannon) and powerfully addicted to pills. As this only covers about the first 20 minutes of the film, you can rest assured there’s a lot more rock-bottom to explore, as well as halting attempts at recovery, which is where she meets Daniel (Freeman, neatly lacing acid into his avuncular mien), the father to one of the highway fatalities.

Scaffolding his story on an illogical foundation, Braff (Garden State, Wish I Was Here) continues to be an aggravatingly unsubtle filmmaker, over-relying on totems of profundity (a train set, a tattoo) and showboating with the camera in ways that distract rather than enhance the drama (an off-balance framing, a confrontation delivered between stair balusters). Still, rising star Pugh is watchable doing just about anything, including sweating through her shirts as Allison tries to kick her addiction. The bond she forges with Daniel doesn’t make a lick of sense, but what keeps the film motoring along is the pleasure of their company.

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