As you may have noticed, I haven’t been reviewing many movies lately. For a variety of reasons I won’t bore you with, these past three months have been the busiest of my life. I simply haven’t had time to get to the theater. I’m not one of those people who thrives on being busy, either. My ideal night includes at least six hours of stoney leisure time*. I’ve been yearning to get to the movies.
*Blogging, walking my dog, watching old fights, noshin’, playing video games, watching movies = Stoney leisure time.
On Monday when I found myself with a completely free night I knew I had to strike while the iron was hot. Then I looked at what was playing. Gulp. When Red is the prize pig you know you’re in the midst of a dry spell. Even that wasn’t playing at any of my favorite theaters. I ended up going with Hereafter simply because it was directed by Eastwood and that matters to me. Clint Eastwood is an excellent director. I saw Million Dollar Baby a couple months back. It was great. And you know I like Mystic River. I’m positive I’ll enjoy Gran Torino when I finally get around to seeing it.
I was disappointed right from the start. It didn’t feel like an Eastwood joint at all. There’s no way to substantiate that really, but early on I got the impression that this wasn’t something he’d put his heart into. Again, I don’t have anything to back that up. But after you’ve seen a few of a director’s movies you get a feel for him, kind of like how you learn a writer’s voice. I certainly didn’t feel like my mind was in the loving embrace of my favorite crusty old man.
It was basically a date movie. I realized that when I walked in (alone, duh) and discovered the place was full of couples*. I was super stoney and clutching my recently purchased copy of Bukharin and the Bolshevik Revolution. My inner monologue was like, “This is not the place for you. These people aren’t like you. Get out, you fool, get out!”
*Do girls love Matt Damon? In what demographic does he score the highest? I think this movie was the couples perfect storm. The girls come for the handsome guy, their boyfriends come for Jason Bourne (theory: men in relationships like Jason Bourne).
But I didn’t get out. I hung in there for the whole two-and-a-half hours. It felt like three. Very little happens in this movie. The plot follows three stories: Matt Damon as George Lonegan, a psychic who can communicate with the dead but is trying to live a normal life; Cecile De France as Marie Le Lay, a reporter who survives a near-death experience; and these annoying British twins, one of whom dies and leaves the other feeling lost and alone. It basically follows all three stories equally and doesn’t unite them until the very end. Damon isn’t the undisputed leader in screen-time, either. He was hardly in the first hour.
None of the characters are particularly compelling. I like Cecile’s look, but her character is pretty bland. The twins are bad actors. I’m not gonna pile it on two little kids, and I’m sure it must be tough to find a set of twins who can act. Still, they were bad.
Damon’s character spends the entire movie lamenting his psychic “curse”. The problem is, it never seems like that much of a curse. I found myself agreeing with a weird and haggard-looking Jay Mohr (playing his brother) when he said that George had a duty to use this gift.
We see George do three psychic readings in the movie. Two of them bring closure and peace to grief-stricken people in their time of need. One goes wrong, and this is only because of idiocy on George’s part. You want to hear a story? I’m gonna tell you a story.
There’s this stupid cooking class. And in this stupid cooking class, George meets this stupid girl (Bryce Dallas Howard) who talks about wanting to find the stupid man of her dreams. They taste things together. George says little, yet she laughs heartily and often. After one class he brings her back to his apartment. Perfect, right? WRONG! This terrible curse! (tearing my hair out)
The girl asks him to do a reading, he contacts her dead mother, its all going fine…..and then he says her dead father is also there and wants to apologize “for that thing he did to you.” Things get weird, she leaves, she isn’t at class next week. Still don’t think bringing people happiness is a curse? I mean the proof is in the pudding at this point, right? What do you expect the guy to do, tactfully avoid discussing an incestuous rape? What society were you raised in?
We’re never led to believe these readings cause George any physical pain. He just doesn’t want to do them because he wants to be “normal.” I gotta be honest, I had a real hard time feeling sorry for this character. At one point he turns away a sobbing woman whose son was just killed. I nudged the couple to my left and was like “Can you believe this guy?”
The ending brings all three stories together and ties them up in a neat little package. It essentially ends with Damon and the French chick meeting for a semi-blind date. See, Damon wrote her this note, and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………….
My boy Ebert gave this two thumbs up. He actually gushed all over it, which is unfortunate. A few snippets:
Eastwood and his actors achieve a tone that doesn’t force the material but embraces it: Not dreamlike, but evoking a reverie state. These characters are not hurtling toward the resolution of a plot. There is no “solution” to their stories. There are various degrees of solace, or not.
The movie is an original screenplay by Peter Morgan (“The Queen”). Eastwood told me Morgan doesn’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t know if Eastwood does, either. His film embodies how love makes us need for there to be an afterlife.
This is a film for intelligent people who are naturally curious about what happens when the shutters close.
Ebert is reading way too much into this. He must be an Eastwood fan, because he’s ascribing layers to this movie that simply aren’t there. Hereafter is a slow, boring, uninspiring stinker. The Eastwood I came to see was nowhere to be found.