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Thursday, January 7, 2010

ACCORDING TO GRETA -- DVD review by porfle

ACCORDING TO GRETA (2009) would seem to be a half-hearted "take me seriously" film for Hilary Duff, but as she takes a step into grown-up dramatic territory she still has one foot firmly planted in the world of poppy teen angst a la Disney, and the two sensibilities come together like ice cream and cigarettes.

Greta (Duff) is sent to live with her Grams and Gramps in Jersey for the summer so that her neglectful mom can get her third marriage started off right. From the git-go, the surly and resentful Greta finds the old folks' sedate lifestyle intolerable and chafes at being expected to adhere to any kind of discipline. This leads to various kinds of trouble, including nocturnal visits from the police and a "cry for help" suicide attempt or two, until finally one of the oldsters can't take it any more and keels over.

My main problem with the film is the title character. Rather than simply being cutely misunderstood, Greta is selfish, antisocial, and stupid, and I didn't like her. Her surly and dismissive attitude gets old quick, whether directed at her likable, well-meaning grandparents or the patrons at the restaurant where she actually bullies the boss into hiring her. We're supposed to buy the idea that her foul-tempered hostility proves irresistibly charming to the people she waits on, some of whom return specifically to enjoy being subjected to it again.

As Greta continues to flaunt her grandparents' good graces and push the buttons of those around her we're meant to excuse her behavior out of sympathy, which eventually proves too much effort to bother with. She's so single-mindedly hostile and inconsiderate to others that we're unable to relate to her either as a realistic character or as a humorously mixed-up "Alice Upside-Down" type--complete with a cutely cartoony diary that she records her self-indulgent thoughts in--especially when she's wallowing in pretend-suicidal angst.

Hilary gives it the old college try but fails to bring much depth to a role that really doesn't have any written into it. Evan Ross fares well as her would-be boyfriend Julie, a cook at the restaurant who takes a fancy to her and tries to help her shape up. Michael Murphy and Ellen Burstyn are a couple of old pros who manage to make Grams and Gramps fairly interesting characters. Burstyn, especially, brings her considerable talent to bear in giving her scenes some emotional heft. Entering the story toward the end, Melissa Leo of "Homicide: Life on the Street" and RIGHTEOUS KILL scores points as Greta's screwed-up mom.

The DVD from Anchor Bay is in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen with Dolby Surround 5.1 and English and Spanish subtitles. Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted and alternate scenes, and an alternate ending.

When Greta's irresponsible mom finally shows up and threatens to ship her away to a "boot camp" while she runs off to frolic with her third husband, we're given a good indication of why Greta's so messed up. But it isn't enough to make us care much about a character who is this big of a jerk, even when she undergoes the usual eleventh-hour transformation into a better person. With an abrupt resolution that's pretty hard to swallow, ACCORDING TO GRETA is an odd mix of ingredients that comes off half-baked.

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