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Hereafter Review


RATING:
(2 STARS)

Director, actor, and all-around bad-ass Clint Eastwood has rattled of an unprecedented number of hits in the last few years. Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Letters from Iwo Jima, Gran Torino, and Invictus were all, on one level or another, successful. His latest, Hereafter, is a major bust on almost every level. It’s certainly different than most of his previous outings—much quieter and more contemplative than your usual Eastwood fare. But it’s also a poorly focused hodgepodge of different themes, ideas, genres, and techniques that falls flat in the face by trying to do far too much. Its lack of credible performances fails to mask the script’s lack of compelling characters. And as the contrivances pile up, any emotional connection is replaced by a feeling of frustration with what Eastwood and screenwriter Peter Morgan have put forth. Yeah, in case you couldn’t tell, I didn’t like this movie very much.

The film follows three distant but thematically similar plotlines. In San Francisco, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) has a gift (or is it a curse): He can genuinely channel the deceased. His brother (Jay Mohr) thinks he should use his powers to help people—to allow them some closure with their dearly departed. George, however, shuns this ability for not allowing him to live a normal life.

In Paris, Marie Lelay (Cecile de France) is a television news personality who has lost her edge since nearly dying in the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. She thinks she has experienced death, and she decides to find out more about what she saw.

Finally, in London, there are Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), twin boys who live with a drug-addicted, alcoholic mother (Lyndsey Marshal). They only really have each other, but when Jason is tragically killed—and his mother decides to go to rehab—Marcus is completely alone.

I guess, on some level, I admire Hereafter, considering how far Eastwood has gone out of his comfort zone. He deals with disparate stories. He slows the pace down far more than he usually does. He uses CGI (in the tsunami sequence—the film’s best scene). And he tackles some supernatural elements. The problem is that none of it really works, especially the use of three storylines. I fault Peter Morgan with that just as much as Eastwood, however. The last half-hour or so of the film is a train wreck—throwing cliché after cliché, and contrivance after contrivance at the viewer in order to get these characters to cross paths. Some films can do that elegantly, but Hereafter is not one of those films.

The film also suffers because it covers a lot of ground but doesn’t have anything particularly interesting to say. Eastwood and Morgan tackle death from just about every angle, but what they present doesn’t move you, teach you, or make you think about death differently.

The acting ranges from decent to awful, with the unknowns standing out more than the big names. The best-in-show award goes to Cecile de France. It’s certainly not the best performance in an Eastwood film, but she’s credible as a woman who wants some answers to questions that are, for all intents and purposes, unanswerable. The McLaren twins, who have no previous acting credits, are good. Marcus is the film’s emotional core (insofar as there actually is one in a film this problematic), and while the actors are a bit bland at times, they’re affecting on occasion. This is probably the blandest we’ve seen Matt Damon in a long time. He was criticized for bringing little to his role in Invictus, but he’s worse here, showing that even the most charismatic actors can churn out a crummy performance once in a while. Also worth noting is Bryce Dallas Howard, who I found just terrible as a possible love interest to George. Her character is just really annoying and unlikeable. Thankfully, she’s not around for too long.

It’s always a pleasure to see a well-established filmmaker try something new, but when the result is something as dull and uninspired as Hereafter, it makes me wish the filmmaker stuck with what he or she does best. Let’s hope this film is just a minor speed bump for the usually reliable Eastwood.

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