Friday, October 22, 2010

Hereafter

An emotionless, manipulative film about the Great Beyond that lacks focus and interest. Made for fans of slow, pointless Eastwood movies that never go anywhere.

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language.

Hereafter

As a director, Clint Eastwood is hit or miss. While Letter From Iwo Jima, Changeling and Unforgiven are all outstanding films
to have on ones credits, Gran Torino,
Invictus and Flags of our Fathers are films you do
not want to have in that same list. The trailer for Hereafter gave a promising look into
the film’s story, so I hoped for it to be in the list of good Eastwood
films. Unfortunately it falls into the list of bad ones.

The trailer for Hereafter is
deceitful. Matt Damon (The Bourne
Identity
) does not play the central character like you are lead
to believe. Hereafter is an
ensemble piece about three different characters and death.

Belgian actress C├ęcile De France (High
Tension
) plays hit French talk show host Marie LeLay. The film
opens with Marie searching the street vendors for souvenirs while
vacationing on some beautiful beach. Only a few blocks from the shore,
Marie gets swept away, crushed and drowned when an unexpected tsunami
hits land. After being dead and experiencing the afterlife for a few
minutes, Marie is brought back and forever changed by what she saw in
the hereafter. Unable to return to work, Marie decides to write a book
about her experience that will give hope and comfort to those who fear
death and the unknown and anyone who has ever lost someone close.

The second story we are brought into involves two young English twins,
Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), being raised by a junkie
mom. Just when the mom decides to get clean, Jason is hit by a car and
killed while trying to run from a group of bullies. Protective services
take the mom into rehab and send Marcus off to a foster family. Being
all alone, Marcus searches the internet for answers to his biggest
questions: what happened to Jason after he died, where is he now and how
can I speak to him.

And the final story we are introduced to is the one that we are misled
to believe the film is all about – Matt Damon’s. Damon plays George
Lonegan (yes, the script is so lazy it just put the word “lone” in a lonely character’s name – what is this, Avatar and its “unobtainium” again?), a retired psychic who now has the ability to communicate with
the deceased after dying and being brought back several times during
surgery. In the past George used his power for business, but the weight
of the burden turned his gift into a curse and he has since retired,
despite the best efforts of his brother (Jay Mohr, Jerry Maguire) to reopen the
business.

Everything that I just described to you is established in the first 30
minutes of the film. Nothing of interest nor importance happens in the
next the next 90 minutes. With five minutes left in the film, all three
characters are brought together, followed by an unfulfilling ending.

Not a single one of these characters is interesting enough to keep you
compelled through this slow 126-minute drama. The only character that
you truly sympathize for is the only one who shows emotion – and she is
not even one of the three central characters! Bryce Dallas Howard (The Village) plays a small romantic
interest role whose sole purpose is to reaffirm that George is incapable
of having a normal relationship because of his “curse.” Howard enters,
gives an astonishing performance unlike anything we have seen her
previously do, and is never seen again. Her wasted cameo perfectly
exemplifies that fact that Hereafter
holds such a high level of potential, but never gets close to reaching
it.

Hereafter breaks two big no-nos
taught in Film Studies 101: never show anything that doesn’t have
significance in the big picture and killing children is the biggest
cheapshot in striking up an emotional reaction from the audience. A
large chunk of Hereafter is
fluff, never serving any meaningful purpose – especially the entire
story about the twins. If during post-production the studio had decided
to completely chop out their boring and poorly-acted storyline, they
would not have had to do any re-shoots to make the picture work without
them. Their story serves absolutely no purpose except to achieve that
emotional cheapshot. Jason is killed just minutes after the tsunami
tragedy, in which we even see another child drown. Hereafter is so emotionally
manipulative that they kill off two children within the first twenty
minutes.

The climax to Hereafter gives
no resolve to anything. All of a sudden a large chunk of time has
passed, the three characters meet and you are given an unsatisfying
ending out of left field that makes no sense whatsoever. As the credits
begin to role over Eastwood’s typical and boring score, you will feel
utterly disappointed in the execution of this film. Out of all of the
possibilities that this story could have realized, it follows the least
eventful, least interesting and least entertaining path. As numb and
distant as they are, the performances are good. As corny as the vision
sequences are and as horribly bad as the tsunami effects look, the directing is still decent. But this film could have been
better. It should have been better. Eastwood has no excuse.

Photo credit: Warner Bros.

1 1/2 out of 5

blog comments powered by Disqus