Greta's a trip, but she's no vacation. She's sixteen, bright, beautiful, and seriously rebellious, full of sarcastic wit that barely disguises her hurt inside. Pushed aside by her mother, Karen, Greta is shipped off to her grandparents for the summer, and she's not happy about it. In fact, she fully intends to kill herself before the summer is over and is currently compiling a notebook of suicide methods. Acerbic, yet willingly impulsive, Greta is a stunning force of nature, disrupting her grandparents' staid and settled lives and the Jersey Shore community they live in as well. But a near catastrophe gives Greta a wake-up call and demonstrates how deeply her own actions impact those around her. Greta's growing love for her elderly grandparents, along with the excitement of her first summer romance, gradually strips away her defenses, revealing the promising, charismatic young woman underneath her shell.
Many movies explore the difficulties of growing up, but few are as powerful and as moving as According to Greta
. Hilary Duff is impressively strong as the title character, a 17-year-old who's trying to figure out who she wants to be, or if she wants to be, while grappling with an overwhelming sense of inadequacy and a rocky family life. Her mother (Melissa Leo) has had multiple husbands, and her father, whom she doesn't remember, committed suicide when she was very young. Greta's mother doesn't know what to do with her and wants to work on saving her third marriage, so she ships Greta off to stay with her Gram (Ellen Burstyn) and Gramps (Michael Murphy) in the sleepy retirement town of Ocean Grove, New Jersey, for the summer. Greta is angry, resentful, and spiteful, and she makes no secret of exactly how she's feeling. She views her imprisonment in the town as a death sentence, and it may literally be. In her journal, Greta keeps two lists: one of things she wants to do before she dies and one of suicide methods. Greta's grandparents both try, in their own ways, to get through to their granddaughter, but she is depressed, determined to push others away, and obstinately obnoxious. Greta meets Julie (Evan Ross), an African-American teenager who was once in juvenile detention is now a line cook with dreams of becoming a chef, and the two are extremely attracted to one another. Julie is wise beyond his years, having learned not only to accept responsibility for his own actions, but to act in a manner that will consistently further his ambitions. Just when it appears that Greta's relationship with Julie may inspire some maturation on her part, Greta does something that will heavily impact the lives of everyone close to her. Will she get a chance to realize that her actions dramatically affect the people around her and that age and experience bring valuable perspective? Few movies have the guts and insight to tackle teen suicide in a way that so realistically captures the intense emotional struggle involved in growing up and learning to respect and love oneself. Both teens and adults should make a point of seeing According to Greta
. --Tami Horiuchi
Stills from According to Greta (Click for larger image)