Hereafter

The Dead Connection

         
 

19 October 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Sodden and drowsy, as well as clumpy and slack in its editing – the film goes on interminably. Clint Eastwood has made three criminally underappreciated films in a row (“Invictus,” “Gran Torino,” “Changeling”) but now he has uncharacteristically unspooled a blemish called Hereafter. At the least, short-stack hunk Matt Damon does fine work in an understated role of a San Francisco forklift operator who has psychic gifts that he sees as a curse. This runs concurrent to two other storylines of varying interest until a final act overlap. The expensive set pieces include a shoreline city submerged by a tsunami, a road kill accident and a subway train bombing. You can call the heaven of afterlife scenes whatever you want but they are murky and vaporous, not to mention brief.

Renowned French journalist Marie (Cecilé de France) is a tsunami victim who gets sucked under the waves as the tide ravages the city, but she is dragged out and resuscitated. Two preteen brothers (George and Frankie MacLaren) cover up for their drug-addled mum in London (shot on location), concealing her habit from justifiably nosey social workers. At the end they both need George to tie up their loose ends.

George is the lonely guy psychic, played by Damon, who eats most nights alone until he meets a bubbly Midwest gal Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) after joining cooking school. In case it matters to anybody, let it be said that Howard is a distinguishable presence for the first time in her career that hasn’t done much for her thus far but shown her lackluster personality (“Lady in the Water,” “Terminator: Salvation”). Thank the cinema gods that at least one happy person occupies the screen.

Prompting George to use his psychic gifts is brother Billy (Jay Mohr) who can’t wait to open up a multi-suite office and tweak a services website. When George holds hands with the living, he can see the souls of the dead. He can also succinctly hear their messages which he translates to their surviving relatives. In the low-rent Spielbergian visuals, we can see for ourselves that death isn’t that much of an experience. Let’s hope that none of the audience goes there, and finds the afterlife of “What Dreams May Come” (Vincent Ward’s 1998 film) instead. And for a film that is to a degree about miracles, or at least fate, nothing is particularly exceptional.

The London boy, Marcus, is looking for a psychic to help him get in touch with a recently deceased loved one, and he initially finds one flim-flam psychic after another. The social workers get Marcus under the protective care of foster parents, marginally characterized by Eastwood and writer Peter Morgan (“Frost/Nixon”). Meanwhile, Marie is losing ratings on her TV magazine show and credibility in various professional and personal facets of her life. “When I went underwater I had visions,” she insists.

Perhaps Eastwood chose this film to be more about death than life, based on his colorless and blah visual scheme that at times looks like gloomier than his Oscar-winning “Million Dollar Baby.” His bummer approach with the story is about as much fun as a sleepover at a graveyard. Which would be fine if the film was after something originally insightful. But it’s not, and the gloom is further underscored by the mostly grimacing actors. Eastwood, like Brett Favre of the NFL, has so bungled this project that he cannot even contemplate retirement here, as he better bounce back and produce something else to make up for this.

129 Minutes. Rated PG-13.

DARK DRAMA / NATURAL DISASTER / RAINY JANUARY MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Made in Heaven” (1987); “Dead Again” (1991); “After Life” (1999, Japan); “Dragonfly” (2002).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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