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We admire director Clint Eastwood a whole lot. Eastwood makes films for grown ups. They don't talk down or patronize the audience. They are usually intelligent and provoking in some way. Always, the name "Eastwood" above the title is reason enough to pay the ticket price. Clint always throws himself full into each project. Which explains why Hereafter is such a monumental stinker that members of our audience were walking out with an hour to go. The film is . . .
IN SHORT: Boring with a capital B. [Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including disturbing disaster and accident images, and for brief strong language. 129 minutes]
Hereafter tracks the stories of three people greatly affected by Death: Marie Lelay (Cecile de France) a French journalist on vacation drowns when a tsunami engulfs her vacation resort and the towns around it. She sees some unrecognizable figures in a bright white light and, after being pronounced dead by the two guys doing CPR, "gets better." Marie does not understand what she has experienced and it will greatly affect her ability to work.
Second up is young Marcus who, with twin brother Jason ,(identical twins Frankie and George McLaren trade off in both roles), tries to hide their mother's (Lyndsey Marshal) drug addiction from Brit Social Services. The pair fear being split by the government, but the ol' scythe comes down on Jason in a particularly awful way. Marcus, always the more passive of the pair, spends the rest of the film unable to deal with the loss of his brother and is determined to find a way to once again, make contact. In Eastwood's world, failure is not an option and Marcus' "enlightenment" comes in a rather unusual way. His road provides the only levity in the whole darn film.
Finally, there is George (Matt Damon) in San Francisco. George has just lost his "real" job, which is fine by his exploitative brother Billy (Jay Mohr). George, you see, is able to convey messages from the dead to the living. He needs to touch a live human first, and then he is, well, zapped by the input from the other side. The net result? George is a miserable human being. He cannot touch anyone without the connection. He is hounded by strangers willing to pay big bucks to speak to the dead. For George, his "gift" is a curse. Capital "C". He does meet a potential match in Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) at a cooking class but, well, there's that touch thing that needs to be explained. Melanie has problems of her own. And that's all we'll lay out.
Somehow, in typical screenplay fashion, each life story comes together to produce a result. Getting there takes what feels like years. So we'll step out of the comfort of the Cranky persona and speak the real deal. You want to know about the hereafter???
I died on September 15, 1988. A truck hit a street lamp which came crashing down on my head, the globe smashing my skull down on my neck; compressing and fracturing the 4th, 5th and 6th cervical vertebrae. If not for a genetic defect in my spinal canal I would have stayed dead for more than the two minutes it took for the two persons doing CPR to bring me back. Yes, there is a White Light and the Dead Friends and an overwhelming torrent of emotional stuff that can in no way be translated to a visual image. Yes, we all come back knowing some stuff -- the film maintains that those who have the NDE don't seek out or talk about the experience, which is flat out nonsense -- and if you ask nicely we'll tell you. Those who write books pretending to know answers to everything (like "Will my pets be waiting for me in Heaven?") are flat out whores.
Back to the film: What we will say is that the film's attempt to briefly explain the experience and how others react to it is way off the mark. Screenwriter Peter Morgan has not had the experience. He just made it up -- which is fine since this is, after all, just a movie. That the film is being marketed as providing some kind of answer to the question of what comes in the "hereafter" is flat out deceptive marketing. And none of that would matter in the least if the characters were interesting in any way. They are not. That we have to muddle through two hours or so of (their) muddling through their own lives is almost more pain than you should bear. (And we know all about pain. It's 23 years and counting...) All this to get an Answer to the Great Unknown Question -- the answer to which I've been telling people for years. Yes, I could expand upon what I've already written about the near death experience above. Yes, I could (and have) argue the religious versus psychological explanations that dismiss said experience. If you think that spending your money thinking someone in Hollywood can give you an answer is the answer, well, I'll save you some money. . .
Live your life, and may it be a long and happy life. One day you will die and then you will know what comes next. Death is nothing to be afraid of. What follows is, as any of "us" that have made the trip will say, really very lovely.
What? You expected some grand religious platitude? I could do that to, but you wouldn't want to hear it. Trust me on that one. As for Hereafter . . .
On average a first run movie ticket will run you Ten Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Hereafter, he would have paid . . .
Derek Jacobi's appearance is little more than a cameo. As well, be prepared to spend a whole lot of time reading subtitles, something we know our readers don't care much for. OTT, Hereafter is one big zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.
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