Just saw this film at its Santa Monica, California, premiere. It is truly a shame that the movie is not being distributed in theatres and instead is going direct to DVD & Blu-Ray. I hope the DVD contains some extras, especially a commentary, all of which were sadly lacking on the DVDs for Hilary Duff's earlier small, independent films of "War, Inc." and "What Goes Up."
For those who have doubted Hilary Duff's dramatic talent up until now, "According to Greta" should put those fears to rest. Duff turns in an unquestionably strong performance of a complicated character that will come as a surprise to those primarily familiar with her more tween/teen-oriented work such as the "Lizzie McGuire" TV series, "A Cinderella Story," and the "Cheaper by the Dozen" films. What the audience has borne witness to here is her genuine maturity as an actress and the possible paradigm shift in her career to more serious dramatic fare in the future.
Duff plays the title character of Greta, a 17 year old girl who has been "exiled" to her grandparents' home in New Jersey for the summer, given her mother's own inability to control her daughter and preference for saving her troubled marriage. Greta has decided to end her life once she turns 18, currently reflecting upon which method of death would be most desirable. Simultaneously, she has created a "bucket list" of sorts of things to experience in the final year of her life. The news of Greta's plans come as a surprise to her grandparents, especially her grandmother, played by veteran actress Ellen Burstyn. The Golden Globe- and Oscar-nominated Burstyn turns in a fine performance as Greta's "Grammy" Katherine, who is determined to give her granddaughter structure and discipline, and perhaps even aide in finding value in life.
Another surprise performance is given by actor Evan Ross, who plays Julie, a restaurant line cook with a shady past, who is committed to living as responsible and ethical a life as possible. Next to Duff's substantive performance, Ross' own poised and balanced performance will likely be a highlight of the film for viewers. In the movie, Greta and Julie become co-workers and eventually strike up a romance, one that comes off naturally, even in scenes of interpersonal character unease. But Greta's hardened attitude about life, her sharp hurtful words, and manipulative actions towards Julie, as well as her grandparents, threaten to drive those closest to Greta away, even as they all labor to help her see life's gifts.
Standing behind inter-relational tensions, is a haunting secret from the past. Will the recognition of this painful experience finally push Greta to take her life? Or can her grandparents and Julie -- or more pointedly, can she herself -- help transform her great pains into a realization for the sanctity of life? Check out the movie and find out for yourself.