Monday, October 25, 2010

Higgens Network: Hereafter

Clint Eastwood is one of the more interesting Hollywood directors working today. Peter Morgan crafts some of the most intriguing scripts. Matt Damon is on a very solid run of nuanced performances. To top it all off, Hereafter is about theologically and people debating the afterlife. There’s no way I wouldn’t love this movie.

Somehow I didn’t love this movie. Even with all of those great talents working together, this was just a bland movie. Dare I say, lifeless? Continuing the never-ending trend of having “surprisingly” connecting storylines, Hereafter follows three different people dealing with grief in their own way.

Damon is a retired psychic who couldn’t handle dealing with death every day. His brother (Jay Mohr) wants him to get back into it because there is money to be made and he thinks his brother has a gift. Yet Damon still insists…I can’t believe he says it twice…that it’s a curse. So he is trying to have a “normal life” (Another overused phrase) by going to cooking classes where he meets the perky Bryce Dallas Howard.

Meanwhile, Cécile De France was one of the survivors of a terrible (and incredibly cinematic) tsunami. She returns to France to resume her job as a journalist, but becomes obsessed about image she had during the catastrophe. She can’t focus on politics anymore but starts to investigate the community who believes in an afterlife.

Finally there is Marcus, a young British boy, who is trying to get over the loss of his identical twin brother. He wants more answers about what happened to him, spiritually.

The only story that is really compelling is the one starring De France because that feels the most original. The smaller details about her television journalistic career worked, especially when it clashed with her theological queries. Though every story seems to meander with all of its scenes and never surprises anyone with where it was going.

With its title, it seems like there would be a bit of discussion with the afterlife. From one of its earliest scenes, it declares this is what it will be like and then nothing new is added aside from vague descriptions. It’s not comforting because it’s never sold to the audience.

When everything comes together, because they have to, it doesn’t feel satisfying because there isn’t anything that drives these characters. What did I want to happen to them? Most of Eastwood’s films are focused on the plot moving things forward. When it is just the characters, like Flags of Our Fathers, his films seem to be without focus. With all of its lingering shots of characters just looking and pauses for reflection, there’s not enough content to make them meaningful.

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