Alright, Clint Eastwood, it’s time for you to make my day. I’m not sure if it’s that at the ripe old age of 80 you’re starting to run on fumes, but it’s definitely starting to show in your work behind the camera. A good ol’ shot of adrenaline never hurt anyone and if it’s all for the sake of trying to ease yourself into being annual Oscar bait every year (Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of Our Fathers, Letters to Iwa Jima, Changeling, Gran Torino, Invictus, phew!), then congratulations. Except that it’s becoming increasingly less deserving. And if this week’s Hereafter is any indication, maybe you just need to entrust yourself over to a new studio because while Warner Bros. may be letting you get away with whatever you want, your name is no longer enough to satiate the cinematic palate.
Peter Morgan isn’t necessarily a household name himself, but he’s written more than his fair share of film gold. When four of your last five films have been the likes of The Damned United, Frost/Nixon, The Queen, The Last King of Scotland you’re doing very well for yourself. But apparently Morgan seems to be far better suited working with source material based on real life events. With Hereafter being his first foray into original material since 1998, maybe it’s a good thing the new Bond film isn’t happening after all (he was co-writing the script). If Morgan was being brought in to do rewrites or maybe some script polishing then I’m sure it was a brilliant idea but at this point we may never know.
In Eastwood’s and Morgan’s meandering Hereafter, we meet Marie LeLay (Cécile De France). She’s vacationing in an undisclosed country with her boyfriend Didier (Thierry Neuvic) and ventures out shopping for gifts for her boyfriend who’s too lazy to go out himself to grab last minute somethings for his own kids when a tsunami strikes. This scene is intense, filmed so as to know what’s actually going on, and having just returned home from a honeymoon in St. Thomas, more than realistic. (Thank goodness we didn’t see this film before we left!) After she gets swept away in the tsunami and seemingly drowns she visits a plain of being which she’s positive to be the hereafter. She continues on to Paris where she’s a hard as nails TV correspondent but is driven by Didier to take some time off and write a political novel she keeps talking about. Instead she starts poking around into scientific facts about the afterlife searching for answers to what she saw that day and decides to write a book about that instead.
In San Franciso, George Lonegan (Matt Damon) is being pushed into performing readings for his brother Billy’s (Jay Mohr) clients against his best interests. George has a gift (or curse as he calls it) and can communicate with people’s loved ones after a surgery gone wrong as a child. He just wants to keep working at a sugar refinery and be at peace with himself even if it means staring longingly out windows, drinking coffee at the dinner table, or his favorite pastime, listening to Charles Dickens books on disc. After he meet-cutes Melanie (Dallas Bryce Howard more aloof than ever and nowhere near as cute as Eastwood thinks it is) at a late night singles cooking class she learns his secret and even she can’t help but push him into what he dreads the most.
Meanwhile, in London, twin brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren) are trying to cope with a drug addicted/alcoholic mother (Lyndsey Marshal). They have their photo taken together as a gift to dear old mum but nothing can keep child services from beckoning. When she decides to get her life back on track is when disaster strikes of course. Jason takes off to the chemist to assist in mum’s rehab but that’s when he’s bullied in the streets and runs out into the street only to be struck by a car. Marcus copes by having his new foster parents move a second bed into his room at their house and keeps Jason’s urn nearby but not as close as his hat which he wears whenever possible. After a ghostly game of keepaway in the tube and Marcus escapes certain death, he too begins researching the afterlife bringing him to seek out answers bringing him to cross paths simultaneously with both Marie and George at the end of the movie where you knew it was headed all along but most sadly we find out the movie still has nowhere to go and even less answers than the faux soothsayers.
If people hated the sentimental and open-ended Lost finale then they will outright despise this film. Hell, even if you absolutely loved said finale you will despise this movie. It’s like the writers of Lost wrote a feature length Seinfeld episode. And the worst episode of both series at that. If Seinfeld claimed to be a show about nothing, here’s a movie that’s about even less. Seriously, how many times can we be shown Matt Damon staring out a window or laying in his bed staring at the ceiling? Now imagine that for two full hours. The best thing to do would be to wait for NetFlix to watch the opening scene on Blu-ray as it will surely look stupendous.
Yup, that’s the grand scheme of things. Admittedly, for the first hour I was slightly interested in spite of the slow pace. You can tell that the story threads are going to wind up coming together somehow in the end and I thought maybe by the dénouement Morgan, Eastwood and his cast could at least be on to something either mischievous and throw in some awesome twist ending or maybe make you care about everyone that when their fates are finally revealed you might give a damn. Well once you finally get to the film’s big reveal you’ll either be groaning or snickering or running for the exits as you realize that it really was just a huge waste of time. I’d rather be stuck in the hereafter than have to suffer sitting through Hereafter ever again.
Photo courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures