When I saw "Greta" listed on the TV schedule it was called "Surviving Summer" and with it starring Hilary Duff made me think cutesy comedy, I hadn't read a synopsis at the time but I did wonder why it was being shown late at night rather than in the daytime. Then I discovered why because "Greta" or "Surviving Summer" isn't some cutesy comedy but a story of a teen girl who has issues and wants to die. Now it may not be a cutesy comedy but it definitely has humour in there and it also has melodrama as well as some cliches which for some will make it a disappointing treatment of what is a real issue. Yet at the same time it makes it watchable and whilst the grit and power is missing it still gets across a message even if at times it almost seems an after thought.
Having witnessed her father commit suicide when she was a small child and her mother now on her third marriage Greta (Hilary Duff - Cheaper by the Dozen 2) finds herself not only being packed off too her grandparents for the summer but also with a morbid interest in killing herself. But whilst Greta's rebellious attitude and general negativity winds people up they also see that in truth she doesn't want to kill herself but wants attention and Julie (Evan Ross), a young ex-con who works in a diner sees this more than anyone as he falls for her but struggles to deal with her self combustive manner.
I must admit I am torn by "Greta" because the subject of teen depression and suicide is a powerful one and a subject which when done right makes for uncomfortable viewing yet here it is not dealt with flippantly but in a much lighter way. In fact "Greta" comes across as a light weight black comedy mixed with melodrama which for those expecting something deep and hard hitting will be disappointed. Yet it does strangely work because whilst for the most you are entertained rather than left unsettled you still get glimpses at the problems and issues leading to Greta's state of negativity when even if something positive happens she has to find a way of making it negative.
What does that mean in real terms, well the first half of the movie features Hilary Duff playing sassy and sarcastic, think Kat Dennings in "2 Broke Girls" but more light weight, as she winds people up with her combative attitude and put downs. And then after being entertained by Greta's general attitude and her morbid curiosity with dying which has a comedic aspect to it we then get drama. In fact that drama is melodrama because it isn't hard hitting but again more light weight so that it unsurprisingly provides Greta with a road to Damascus moment where she suddenly starts to realise life is worth living and her attitude is hurting others. As I keep on saying it is light weight rather than gritty but in the midst of all this toned down drama there are some insightful moments.
Now there are plenty of enjoyable performances in "Greta" Evan Ross does a nice job of playing it sensitive as Julie whilst Ellen Burstyn and Michael Murphy are fun as her grand-parents. But of course "Greta" features Hilary Duff as she tries to reinvent herself from teen star to dramatic actress and she delivers what I would say is a stepping stone performance. Duff's teen appeal is still there, the sarcasm makes her amusing but in the moments of drama when it is all about the emotional issues Duff brings a sense of realism to the scene which hints that maybe there is life for Duff after being a teen princess.
What this all boils down to is that "Greta" isn't going to be for everyone because it is a light weight drama about teen suicide which rarely gets close to gritty realism. But it does entertain and more significantly in Hilary Duff's career shows that she can do more than bubbly.