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Now is Good

2012 | 103 min | PG-13 | 2.39:1

Now is Good


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Theatrical release date

 19 September, 2012

Country of origin

 United Kingdom



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Now is Good Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, January 3, 2013

I could see “Now is Good” appealing to a certain younger audience. Not teenagers, but pre-teen girls dreaming of adolescent experiences that could help to define them, while happily observing a traditional rebellious attitude. Schmaltz of the highest order, “Now is Good” is particularly punishing melodrama without a clear understanding of its message, rewarding awful behavior in an effort to appeal to the only demographic that will be able to endure it to the end. Surprisingly harsh when it comes to the dented appeal of its lead character, the movie is a predictable drag, attempting to cozy up to its young adult literary origins (adapted from the novel by Jenny Downham) in a decidedly tuneless fashion.

Teenager Tessa (Dakota Fanning) is tired of her longtime battle with leukemia, severing her treatment in an effort to die with some dignity. Before she passes, Tessa scribbles down a bucket list teeming with taboo juvenile delinquent activities, including theft and casual sex, but what she really wants is true love, unable to find such an elusive sensation due to her illness. Her divorced parents, Father (Paddy Considine) and Mother (Olivia Williams), are at odds over how to treat their self-destructive girl, with Tessa taking behavioral clues from her pregnant best friend, Zoey (Kaya Scodelario). Into Tessa’s life comes neighbor Adam (Jeremy Irvine), a kindly fellow who can’t quite process his place in the sick girl’s experience, afraid to bare his feelings when everyone else is ready to say goodbye. As the two work out a relationship, Tessa is empowered for the first time in her life, only to be defeated by her illness, which is slowly spreading throughout her body, cutting life short at the very moment it awakens.

To accept “Now is Good” requires patience with Tessa’s behavior throughout the film. In writer/director Ol Parker’s care, Tessa is reduced to a sullen girl who lashes out at the world around her, perpetually frustrated with all the concern gifted to her by loved ones. A teenaged character perturbed with unwanted attention is believable, yet Tessa isn’t scripted as a tender girl with conflicted feelings on the subject of life and death. Instead, she’s genuinely mean to most in the movie, with Father taking the brunt of the anger for reasons that are never exactly clear. A flattened man trying to ease his daughter’s pain, Father is troubled and needy, yet Tessa treats the kindly guardian with disdain for the majority of the picture. There’s little reason for the contempt, and Parker doesn’t make room to dissect such a complicated relationship, preferring to keep Tessa venomous, which immediately dissolves any empathy for the character, turning the fragile girl into a creep. It’s a sensation Parker can’t shake, despite his cloying attempts to warm up the bond with tears and confession.

It also doesn’t help the movie to have Tessa and Zoey testing boundaries with criminal behavior, engaging in shoplifting and ATM card theft to get their kicks. Parker celebrates the delinquency by emphasizing Tessa’s shameful skills of manipulation, also crossing into distasteful material by focusing on destructive acts as the key to the girl’s peace of mind. Buying a flat is also on Tessa’s death list. I’d rather watch 100 minutes of asking price negotiations than scenes where Tessa exploits her cancer battle to avoid punishment, or another aimless sequence where the teens take a trip into wonderland on mushrooms.

More frigidity enters “Now is Good” via Fanning’s flat performance. Working an iffy English accent, Fanning is paralyzed by the demands of the language, spending more time carefully navigating her dialogue than processing its emotional needs. It’s underwhelming, stiff work, finding Fanning zombified while Tessa works through some terrifying medical emergencies and difficult questions of need, requiring an actress with a brighter inner life to convey a complex range of feelings as death draws near. The only work in the film worth attention is Considine, who’s agreeably ragged and bleedingly parental as the weary Father, adding droplets of honest emotion to an exhaustively phony picture.

From the very first frame, it’s obvious where “Now is Good” is heading, and it heads exactly in that direction. Health scares are aplenty, as is cuddling time with the young lovers as Parker attempts to contort the material into screen poetry. Again, younger viewers won’t detect the familiarity of it all, leaving them susceptible to the contrivances of the movie. Others will likely tune out immediately, leaving the remainder of this charmless, mean-spirited effort an endurance test.

Starring: Dakota Fanning, Paddy Considine, Olivia Williams
Director: Ol Parker

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