OPINION | ON FILM: Missing link: Why we are missing ‘A Good Person’

Hurtful: Allison (Florence Pugh) is the really very good person responsible for the death of Daniel’s (Morgan Freeman) son in Zach Braff’s “A Good Person.”
Hurtful: Allison (Florence Pugh) is the really very good person responsible for the death of Daniel’s (Morgan Freeman) son in Zach Braff’s “A Good Person.”

I was kind of looking forward to seeing Zach Braff's "A Good Person."

Unfortunately, the screening link never arrived, which doesn't mean the publicist/studio didn't send it, only that email and digital links are imperfect delivery devices. So we don't have a review of "A Good Person" for the newspaper today, which isn't a huge loss considering the few reviews I've seen have pretty much beat up on the movie and Braff.

According to the studio synopsis, in the film "Daniel (Morgan Freeman) is brought together with Allison (Florence Pugh), the once thriving young woman with a bright future who was involved in an unimaginable tragedy that took his daughter's life. As grief-stricken Daniel navigates raising his teenage granddaughter and Allison seeks redemption, they discover that friendship, forgiveness, and hope can flourish in unlikely places."

OK, maybe we could guess from that what kind of experience this might be, but I'm still at the stage where I'll see anything Florence Pugh stars in, and though it's not fashionable to say anymore, I didn't hate Braff's "Garden State" (which came out in 2004 -- I could have sworn it came out in the mid-'90s).

I do hate his T-Mobile commercials though.

Anyway, a critic I respect, Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian, did see it. He writes:

"The title asks us to consider what happens when a good person does a bad thing; this film seems to imply that if you're a good person, you can pull a gun on someone at a party in front of many witnesses and you won't get into trouble as your exhaustively established sensitivity and suffering means there is apparently no question of the cops showing up the next morning ... the film's single valuable lesson -- the one about not looking at your phone while driving -- is all but forgotten."

OK, I guess it doesn't hurt too bad to miss it.

A few years ago, missing "A Good Person" like this would have really bothered me. We try to review every movie that opens theatrically in Arkansas on or before its opening. Or at least that's what we used to try to do. In 2004, there might have been 100 movies that opened theatrically in Arkansas -- we would have reviewed every one of those that the studios weren't actively trying to prevent critics from seeing. Now that streaming services (and a pandemic) have disrupted the film industry, there are probably 1,000 new films available to our audience arguably worth critical attention. Maybe more.

We still kinda review movies that open theatrically, but that's an aesthetic decision, rooted in the belief that there's still something important about the ritual of going out to the movies and watching light dance on a wall amid similarly inclined congregants. Movies used to be a communal experience and they used to provide us with a collective reservoir of images and scraps of dialogue that functioned as a kind of cultural glue.

Maybe there's still something to that, though the only movies Americans seem to turn out for en masse anymore are spectacle films like "Top Gun: Maverick" and "Avatar: The Way of Water." Most people see fewer than five films a year in a movie theater.

On the other hand, you can drown in classic, foreign and indie movies in your own home. Streaming services are a real boon to people who like cinema. If you're committed to covering the movies, it simply doesn't make sense to ignore the sort of movies most people consume. We've been writing about streaming movies for years, and, in all likelihood, we'll do even more of that in the future.

I also think that we ought to do more with streaming TV series like "Succession" and "The Last of Us" and "Stranger Things." Maybe not in these pages, but ignoring so-called "prestige TV" is dangerous for anyone who means to understand (much less write about) American pop culture in the 21st century. Going forward, more of my personal attention is going to be focused on shows like these.

But movie theaters deserve more than warm nostalgia.

They've evolved and I imagine the successful ones will continue to evolve, and probably become more special and high end as fewer people acquire the habit of weekly moviegoing. People will always need destinations -- places to go to escape our nests, to court and flirt and encounter other people. Movie theaters will persist, though first-run movies themselves might not remain the primary draw.

I like the theaters that are showing "classic" films like Riverdale -- on April 11 they're showing the "The Sugarland Express," which people need to know is not only Steven Spielberg's 1974 directorial debut but one of his more interesting projects. I won't say "best," because, though I like the movie a lot, it evinces a lot of Spielbergian tendencies that, over the course of his career, have polarized his critics. I'll save a deeper -- or at least more extended -- reading of the film for our April 7 section.


Some of you have noticed this column has been missing in recent weeks. That wasn't the plan but I've been working on some things that have required a lot of attention. But I mean to return to it, and to, as I said early this year, to focus more on the overall arc of the movies and their history than whatever happens to be opening in a particular week.

Like movie theaters, ours is an industry that has been disrupted, but my feeling is that newspapers are always being disrupted and that we are either constantly evolving or, as Townes Van Zandt put it, waiting around to die. So we're going to keep trying new things, as we gradually but inevitably move away from being mostly a day-date publication replicating the old daily newspaper model into something more immediate -- a constantly updated stream of news, analysis and thought.



Upcoming Events