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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Little-Late Film Review - Hereafter (2010)

How do you bore me? Let me count the ways. You bore me with your pretense and manipulation. You bore me with your three converging plots, especially the one that is completely pointless. You bore me with a male lead’s performance so earnest that I wanted to punch him in the face. Alright, I’ll stop plagiarizing Elizabeth Browning, but I have to say, this movie frustrated the hell out of me, and I needed some emotion to contrast Hereafter’s lack thereof.

Hereafter is an excessive piece about the way we deal with death focusing on three plots: A psychic named George (Matt Damon) who really can speak to the dead but hates his gift, a tormented boy who is unable to recover from his twin brother’s sudden death and his subsequent separation from his junkie mother by the authorities, and a French journalist who survives the tragic tsunami in 2005 but is traumatized by the events. The film flashes between the three plots fairly evenly, and they are all equally tedious.

The scenes with George are slow, and extremely frustrating. He mumbles and shakes his head about; he is shy and nervous and tries to keep people at a distance. George is also tormented by his enterprising brother Billy (Jay Mohr), who wishes to turn his brother’s “gift” into a gold mine, but George feels his gift a curse and shies away from human contact to avoid triggering it. He develops a relationship with a new arrival to his home city of San Fransico who he meets at a cooking class taught by Steve Schirripa doing his worst Emeril Lagassi impression, which he subsequently ruins after she pressures him into giving her a “reading” and he digs just a little too deep.

The boy, named Marcus, is a London resident who begins foster care after he is taken from his mother. It’s obvious he’s traumatized, but the foster family is getting frustrated with his tendency to disappear, but these departures are his attempts to see various psychics so that he can speak with his brother. This character is just designed to illicit sympathy and his story is probably the most boring of them all. However, there is one pretty funny montage of him speaking to various hacks who claim to be able to speak with his brother, and he is wise to their act.

Though not as boring as Marcus’ story, the story of Marie is arguably the worst part of the film. She is a reporter who is in shock after witnessing a girls’ death as a massive tsunami crashes through a coastal town. She survives, reunites with her lover/producer and they return to France. She begins to display odd behavior and is asked to take some time off, maybe write a book. She gets a book deal and writes a completely different book than she promised, but is ultimately published (of course she is).

So in the end the three plots converge at a book fair. Marcus approaches the reluctant George and harasses him into giving him a reading and George meets Marie and they fall in love… or something. The frustrating thing about this part of the movie is this is where your find out that all of that emaciated, subtitled dialogue between Marie and her insipid cohorts was all for nothing. She has a book at the fair, she makes some sort of connection with George, and they go out on a date. That’s it!

Hereafter is a long movie for two hours. It drags and drags and limps along, largely due to the massive amounts of fat added to the film in the form of weak and disjointed subplots. Most of the events in this film have absolutely nothing to do with the main plot, but they seem designed to give us glimpses into these characters and how they contrast with “normal” people. This is completely unnecessary, however, as all of these characters are completely transparent and their emotional struggles are about as subtle as a 60-foot flaming neon elephant trampling an Iron Maiden concert.

I hated this film. It’s an example of how drama can fall victim to bad pacing and boring characters. Everyone in this film is so blank-faced, and I guess that’s the trauma they‘re acting but it makes for a very boring experience. What’s worse is this is a film directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Peter Morgan! Eastwood did wonders with Mystic River and Gran Torino, I wonder why this is so weak. Morgan wrote the Queen, Frost/Nixon, the Last King of Scottland, and the Special Relationship. All are clever, smart scripts with fleshed out characters and pitch-perfect tone. I don’t know what happened here, but I’m guessing it’s something kind of like what happened with Crystal Pepsi or that awful Friends spin-off.

The Results:
Performances:  The performances are flat and boring, either completely lacking in emotion or using dramatic pose to manipulate the audience.  2 out of 5

Screenplay: Not awful, but far from what we've seen from Peter Morgan before.  Therefore, I have to hold him to a higher standard.  3 out of 5

Visuals: The movie has the visual style resembling a high-profile funeral.  Overcast skies, lots of dark clothing and a generally solemn tone.  This is obviously symbolic of the characters' grief, but as the acting and writing is sub-par, it doesn't work at all, it's just heavy-handed. 2 out of 5

Sound: The score in Hereafter is fine, it suits the material, but it, like everything else just lacks energy. 2 out of 5

Novelty Value: None.  This film is too pretentious and too dull to have any sort of entertainment value beyond it's intention.

The Verdict: Don't waste your time with this one.  It is excessive, slow and all around boring.  The numerous subplots take it all over the place only to have it meet back up in the end and amount to nothing.

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