Monday, November 1, 2010

Movie with Abe: Hereafter

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Released October 16, 2010

As a director, Clint Eastwood has established a certain mold of filmmaking over the past decade or so. With movies like “Mystic River,” “Million Dollar Baby,” “Flags of Our Fathers,” “Changeling,” and “Gran Torino,” Eastwood has made an art out of telling stories, original or adapted, about people who are extraordinarily lonely, whether they are surrounded by family and friends or whether they are truly by themselves. In his latest effort, penned by Peter Morgan, writer of “The Last King of Scotland,” “The Queen,” and “Frost/Nixon,” Eastwood follows three different people who have all experienced something no one else has, and are all seeking some sort of release from their respective burdens.

As a premise and an idea, “Hereafter” sounds intriguing. Matt Damon’s George Lonegan is a real psychic who no longer does readings because the pressure and effect of what he sees has made it too hard for him to connect with people. Cécile de France’s Marie DeLay is a French TV reporter who feels detached from the world after undergoing a near-death experience during a natural disaster. Jason McLaren’s Marcus is dealing with the accidental death of his identical twin brother. Their searches for closure and fulfillment take them on remarkably similar paths, and that’s where the film’s themes become (somewhat) apparent.

After a stunning visceral opening in which a tsunami overtakes the beachfront resort at which Marie is staying and sends Marie briefly into the afterlife, the film fails to recreate that same sense of awe or emotion. Its motives are unapparent, its message is unclear, and most of its characters are hard to crack. George in particular is an antisocial loner incapable of small talk who appears all the more dysfunctional when positioned next to his greasy brother, played, unsurprisingly, by typecast sleaze ball Jay Mohr. Bryce Dallas Howard pops up in George’s Italian cooking class as a chatterbox love interest, and her presence lights up the film, providing most of its dialogue. Yet her sunny nature and optimistic attitude don’t fit well with the film, and therefore the focus doesn’t stay on her for long.

More than anything, “Hereafter” is in no rush to get anywhere. While 126 minutes is not Eastwood’s longest film by any stretch of the imagination, it still seems that he is trying to stretch out the stories as much as he can so that they come together without him needing to do much. From this effort, a fair conclusion is that scribe Peter Morgan should stick to political and fact-based films rather than trying to tackle the afterlife. The dialogue is clunky and the film just doesn’t flow. Strangely funny scenes feel inappropriate, and the blocking is often odd. One montage where Marcus visits fake psychic after fake psychic is particularly effective, but for the most part, the answers offered and the story provided by this film likely won’t be nearly as satisfying as the closure for which its main characters are searching.


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