Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hereafter (2010)

Psychic George Lonegan (Matt Damon) seeking a normal life, news reporter Marie LeLay (Cecile De France) recovering from a near death experience, and young Marcus (Frankie & George McLaren) dealing with the loss of his twin Jason all face, deal, and struggle with the concept of death, and what comes after.


Struggling to find solid footing, Hereafter is a slow analysis of the importance of an afterlife to human's every day life. Throughout Hereafter Morgan and Eastwood presume, and indeed show, an afterlife (basically standing room only with a bright light) and what it means for those who still have something left to say. 

Following a childhood accident Damon's George Lonegan has had a 'gift' for communicating with the dead (though he notes he's not always accurate), and serves as a medium between the dead and the living by touching his client. This touch has created an immense strain on George's relationships, except with his enterprising brother (Jay Mohr) who sees great money to be made by it. In an effort to show how big of a crutch this talent, if you will, puts on George's life, we are introduced to Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard). Melanie's friendship with George, struck up during cooking classes the two take, serves as a vantage point for the viewer into George's personal issues.

Meanwhile there are two other stories occurring simultaneously. Marie, the news reporter/show host, struggles with her visions of the afterlife following her near death experience during a tidal wave, a very intense kick off to the film. Marie's journey into acceptance of the afterlife serves almost as a parallel to George's desire to escape from it. Marie's storyline tends to be the most preachy, with respect to the notion of an afterlife and people denying its existence, but I believe it serves a valid point in the context of the film. Marie serves as our medium between the film's afterlife and our own pre-conceived notions.

Perhaps the most gripping, and in turn frustrating, storyline is that of Marcus and Jason. The story of Marcus and Jason takes us through a more average dealing with death. We encounter fake psychics, personal trauma, and human disconnection. Newcomers Frankie and George McLaren have a wonderful storyline to build off of, and their journey into, and seeking out, an afterlife completes the film's final puzzle. Unfortunately the McLarens don't quite have the acting talent to carry their more emotionally weighed scenes leading to lots of talk first, cut, cry now moments. 

Those seeking a new drinking game will most likely find one in George Lonegan's incessant denial of being a practicing medium/psychic. By the end of the film Lonegan's most likely said "I don't do that anymore" somewhere around twenty times.

Hereafter, unlike so many films, doesn't have a real closure to everything. Morgan and Eastwood carry in between the cracks of the film the message that, while death is important, so is life. These character's conversations with Lonegan don't always lead to happy results, let alone conclusive ones. Ultimately each character must face life on their own with the briefest element of knew knowledge gained from meeting Lonegan (not always what they wanted to hear either).

Personally I would have preferred it if the film spent more time with Melanie and George, whose resolution feels abrupt. However, the movie just struggles to find a single narrative to hold onto. There's a lot of scenes of characters going through the motions. Their every day lives are complicated but not the most captivating. Hereafter takes a long time to get where it's going, and the destination is acceptable at best. Eastwood does a decent job, but tends to overreach for drama, and can't find the pacing. Morgan seems to want to be everywhere at all times, and doesn't handle the different stories with equal grace and emotion.

Hereafter has something to say, it just lacks the focus to say it thoroughly. Caught in mundane events, static plots, and a higher message, Eastwood and Morgan seem unsure how to bring it all too life while maintaining audience interest. Damon, France, Howard, even the McLaren twins, all handle their roles as well as the script demands, but there's little standing out. Unfortunately for Hereafter when a movie is slow, demanding, and articulate, all flaws are highlighted, and its true value can be unappreciated. Hereafter is a film that displays what happens to a life, both the good and bad, that becomes obsessed with death.

7 better thoughts:

Dan said...

An insightful review Univarn. I was looking forward to this not only because Clint Eastwood has been on a role for the past few years but the subject matter intrigued me. It did, however, seem like a departure for Eastwood. Although I haven't seen it, it would seem my fears that he was in unchartered territory and may not be able to pull it off as well as say something like Gran Torino or Million Dollar Baby, have some foundation.

Candice Frederick said...

hmmmm...your points make me not wanna see this film, but intereseted to see it for myself. thanks for the heads up!

Danny King said...

I'm guessing that you're one of the few people who would say the Marcus storyline is the most gripping. I think most viewers, myself included, will have trouble enduring that part of the film simply because - as you mentioned - it's tough for a child actor to stand up against the solid presences of Damon and de France. This is my main complaint of the film, but otherwise, I found it quite moving. Even if the final resolution is a bit abrupt, it left me satisfied and moved. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like you had the same experience.

Univarn said...

@Dan Thanks. Eastwood definitely struggles, and I think its obvious when he does. Moving on old school film tricks (like the note reading voice over) to keep the film moving.

@Candice I think it would make for a good DVD rental. Nothing about it, with perhaps the exception of the opening sequence, struck me as 'must see in theater.'

@Danny I suppose my main issue with it is that even after having seen it I don't hate it, I don't feel indifferent towards it, in fact I kind of like it, but I there's all these little things that gnaw at me in the back of mind while thinking about the film.

Anonymous said...

I just sent your review to my colleague who's thinking about seeing this in the weekend. I'll probably check it out on Netflix but just wasn't compelled enough by the trailer to see it in the cinema.

Hereafter said...

the dirctor is CLINT EASTWOOD, the writer is PETER MORGAN, just tell me what we need more to understand that it's a awesome film?

Univarn said...

@Flix Thank you, I'm quite humbled that you think enough of my opinion to send it out to others. This would make for a solid Netflix rental, but no rush to see it in the theaters.

@Hereafter Well, lots of things. First you need to understand your personal taste. If the type of film, type of storytelling utilized, and type of performances don't match your preferences it doesn't matter how relatively awesome something is considered, you're not going to like it. Hence the review. Otherwise my typing the entire above post would be rendered entirely mute.

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