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MOVIE REVIEW: Hereafter

Who knew the after-life was so boring?

Hereafter: Rates a D.
Courtesy photo

I was really looking forward to Hereafter.

Clint Eastwood has directed so many great films, even going back to the early 1970s with Play Misty For Me.

Aside from the ending, I loved Mystic River.

Sure, he’s had a few clunkers. What director hasn’t?

The trailers for this movie looked so promising. Great special effects show the tsunami and a popular newscaster almost dies in it.

We know she’s popular because of #24 on my movie pet peeve list – when she walks down the streets, there are billboards with her face on them. Every famous person in a movie has those, or buses with their faces plastered on the sides.

Later in the movie, she’d suffer the fate of movie pet peeve #118 (it doesn’t pop up much, but when it does, it’s annoying). That’s the one where the protagonist is angry at the book publisher for a dumb reason. In this case, it’s because she was given a big advance to provide a book on a dirty politician, and instead decides to write about her near-death experience and life after death.

Huh? And she’s surprised the editors aren’t happy. I wonder what Fox5 would’ve done if when I came in to review this movie, I instead brought a recipe and started making pumpkin pie for the folks at home. I’m guessing it wouldn’t fly with the segment producer. But I digest (I just ate a huge piece of pumpkin pie).

I find it even more perplexing that the investigative reporter/newscaster talks to one doctor, and is convinced she’s got all the answers. Even stranger that they have some bizarre notion that “nobody wants this information out.” Really? Who? Big oil companies, slave labor factories, churches…who exactly doesn’t want us believing in life after death?

Now, this movie blew it on so many levels. It deals with three stories, in three beautiful cities – San Francisco, Paris and London.

They have the perfect actors for these stories (the twins in this are so cute and sad, they are brilliant).

The stories all start out promising. Then Clint Eastwood, after an interesting set up, bores us to tears.

Even the crappy Robin Williams movie What Dreams May Come, had a beautiful scene of life after death. This movie gave us nothing. We see some white lights and shadowy figures.

We see Matt Damon do a reading early on, and it’s done wonderfully. Character actor Richard Kind shows up at his apartment. He’s a client that his sleazy brother Jay Mohr brings over (Mohr, always a welcome sight in movies, took the sleaze down a notch from his Jerry MacGuire character).

When Kind and Mohr discuss the reading (which we think Damon messed up), you get goose bumps. And those are more of the moments this movie needed.

Matt Damon would’ve been perfectly cast for this, showing a breezy casualness and caring that is what the character needs. But when it’s all said and done, he really isn’t that caring about anyone. He just rants and raves to anyone that will listen – about what a burden this all is.

Now, it was a burden for Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone (best Stephen King movie ever). Walken got bad headaches from doing it, and he got people angry at him when he gave the future they might not want to hear. What is the burden for Damon? A woman showing up at his house at 5 p.m. offering him a boatload of money to do a reading? Sounds like a cool gift to have.

Now, when he complains he can’t have a love life, because touching a womans hand brings out information neither of them want to hear – well, is this inadvertent? He touches other hands and this doesn’t happen. Can he turn it off and on? Shouldn’t he wear gloves for the time he isn’t thinking about it? I’m confused.

Damon also does the Good Will Hunting thing. He takes a low-paying construction job, so he can live a “normal” life. He refuses the opportunity to make millions of dollars. Then, with his brother pushing him, agrees to make the money and help people, only to not show up at the job and instead travel. Oh, and that’s pet peeve #58: agreeing to do something you don’t want to do on screen, and then when the big day comes, you just don’t show up. Does this even happen in real life, or is it merely done for the drama of how that will look in movies? I mean, his brother wasn’t that pushy. He could’ve just said “Look, I understand why you want me to do it, and why it seems like a good idea. I’m just not ready to get back into it right now.”

And, the last of my movie pet peeves, is #4. It’s the house guest that hears a message on your machine you don’t want them to hear. Instead of merely coming home, and turning your answering machine off so the person doesn’t hear an ex-girlfriend call and curse you out, a mother asking why you don’t meet any nice Jewish girls, a friend talking about the strippers from the poker game last weekend, a boss telling you you’re fired, etc etc etc. Instead we need these scenes in movies to push the story along. The love interest can now pester and pester and pester Damon for a reading. And we know exactly where that’s going, too (not sure why Damon couldn’t just hold her hands and say “Uh…well, someone with the letter J. Was there a John in your life? No, uh…okay, what about a Jerry? Still no. Okay, well, now you see why I don’t do it anymore. I’m not very good. Let’s eat dinner now!”)

Eastwood may not have appeared in this movie, but he added the musical score. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

It’s just so disappointed that the slow-paced movie starts out so promising and becomes such a let down.

Damon is supposed to be this character that has empathy, but I found him to be just the opposite. He doesn’t want to help people that really need it (an older black woman, a poor white child). No matter how much of a “burden” this is, surely he could’ve done a quick reading to re-assure them, and just set some ground rules on how he won’t be bothered. The way celebrities do it with autograph seekers – no in restaurants or in bathrooms, etc.

Some of the side characters have interesting moments – a caring couple interested in the welfare of a child, one of the Sopranos running a cooking class for adults, etc. And it’s great that they didn’t throw eight different stories at us, where they all coincidentally tie up nicely at the end. We just have a few stories that all end with them meeting up in London.

Oh, and I forgot about another movie pet peeve. It’s pet peeve #19. That’s the comedic montage. In Pretty Woman, it’s hearing the title song while Roberts tries on various outfits in dressing rooms and boutiques. In Single White Female, it’s the various crazy looking roommates that show up answering the ad in the paper. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, it’s the various crazies the parents want to set their lonely daughter up with.

So, any guesses on what the montage is in this? (cue the Jeopardy! theme in your head)

It’s a child seeking answers on the afterlife, who meets with various quacks and charlatans wanting to take his money.

This movie has a few engaging moments, but it had so many missed opportunities to be a wonderful epic movie on a subject we all think about. I even thought of a few scenes that could’ve helped it get there; maybe Mohr telling a few stories of how his readings have helped people. I know those scenes in Sixth Sense were powerful (hey – their tagline was “I see dead people.” This movies should be: “I see dead people. And they’re dead to me!”)

Hereafter is maudlin garbage that maybe others in Eastwoods age range (80s) might find interesting. It should’ve been a two-part Lifetime movie of the week. It’s nothing you should waste $11 on. And if you do, well…I don’t need to grab your hands and see that you’re sad you killed some money you had in your wallet.

This gets a D (for dead).