A Sparkling Cast and Muddled Story in A Good Person

A Good Person, written and directed by Zach Braff, deals with addiction, grief, generational harm, and how one slight misjudgment can cause far-reaching ramifications. There are plenty of predictable beats and some pacing issues that make decisions mind-boggling. What saves A Good Person is the dialogue and execution by their cast, filling each scene with complexity befitting trying to love after suffering monumental loss.

The movie sets up the emotional connection for engaged couple Allie and Nathan, played by Florence Pugh and Chinaza Uche, respectively. Their relationship is loving and filled with lighthearted love. Even here, there are hints that addiction could be a future issue. Scenes show Allie under the influence, whether alcohol or an edible. The turn comes as a sober Allie drives to a bridal boutique to try on wedding dresses with her future sister-in-law, Molly (Nichelle Hines), in the passenger seat and Molly's husband seated behind his wife.

Denial Hinders Allison's Growth

“It wasn't my fault” is a familiar refrain Allie recites to anyone willing to listen. Because, for her, the fact that she was not under the influence of any substances absolves her. Arguably this refusal to face reality travels hand in hand with her downfall after the accident. Her behavior is selfish, as is common for people with addiction.

So a year later, Allie struggles with addiction, breaks up with Nathan, and lives with her mom, Diane (Molly Shannon). After finally arriving at an AA meeting, she runs into Nathan's father, Daniel (Morgan Freeman), a recovering alcoholic, who convinces her to stay and even tries to take her under his wing as she flounders.

Invigorating Performances From The Cast

Pugh exhibits that odd balance of humor and ferocity with one sobering moment away from fully unraveling. Taking responsibility, even admitting you're an addict, is something Allie struggles to overcome. The film hinges on Pugh's performance, and Pugh does not disappoint.

Chinaza Uche is onscreen too little, projecting raw emotions of loss and distance, both at losing his sister and his painful past with his abusive father, Daniel. The way Nathan points out that the reason Daniel struggles to raise Molly's orphaned teenage daughter, Ryan (Celeste O'Connor), is because he no longer has the physical strength to rule by fear resonates.

Morgan Freeman's performance is good but feels mild compared to everyone else. Allison's mom, Molly Shannon, shows the harmful patterns of addiction and, though it's unexplored, delivers nuance to their relationship. Rounding out performances is Celeste O'Connor, who does a phenomenal job. Their resentment and pain are apparent with every baleful glare. Not only has she lost both parents, but as her grandfather and uncle grieve the loss, she's mostly adrift to handle her emotions alone.

Though Ryan gives a solid, emotional performance, the stakes never feel high. Ryan feels less adrift and more like a teen exploring life through problematic choices. Though, the scene where she first recognizes Allie is phenomenal.

Daniel and Allison Make More Sense Than Allison and Ryan

Daniel's motivation for talking to Allison works because of his past and her present. Even without Daniel's explanation later, that feels unnecessary. But the speed with which Ryan blames Allison and then wants to hang out with her has little reasoning. The initial setup for the characters works, but the film's latter half feels rushed.

Now, it's understandable that teens are emotional seesaws. But within one sit-down dinner, Ryan goes from cursing Allison to wanting to hang out. There's no setup demonstrating this change. They bulldoze through without taking time to craft their trajectory, giving emotional whiplash at how immediately Ryan flips. It's like the mad queen in Game of Thrones, and even that had more buildup.

Some Sections Feel Inessential

A few scenes in A Good Person are pointless in the grand scheme. Allison's chat with former high school classmates in a bar makes her even more unlikeable. While there is a moment when she feels she needs help, her mom's enabling her addiction squashes that.

While some of the conversation and Daniel's narration about trains is interesting, it does not tie into the story except in the most abstract sense. With a 125-minute runtime, they could have trimmed those sections and spent time developing Allison and Ryan's dynamic and arc.

A Good Person is well-crafted for the most part, with impressive performances but not everything flows seamlessly from one scene to the next. Top-notch acting from Pugh, O'Connor, and Uche lends weight to the film raising it higher. But some parts raise more questions after viewing.

Rating: 6.5/10 SPECS

A Good Person wanders into theaters on March 24.

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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.