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HEREAFTER (director: Clint Eastwood; screenwriter: Peter Morgan; cinematographer: Tom Stern; editors: Joel Cox/Gary D. Roach; music: Clint Eastwood; cast: Matt Damon (George Lonegan), Cécile de France (Marie Lelay), Frankie and George McLaren (Marcus/Jason), Jay Mohr (Billy), Bryce Dallas Howard (Melanie), Marthe Keller (Dr. Rousseau), Thierry Neuvic (Didier), Derek Jacobi (Himself); Runtime: 129; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Clint Eastwood; Warner Bros.; 2010)
The climax was just as incredulous as Clint’s unconvincing look at the hereafter.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Clint Eastwood (“Invictus”/”Gran Torino”/”Letters from Iwo Jima”) tackles the grim subject of death, a path that we’re all on but too many try to avoid the inevitable by any means possible, as Clint tells us that most of us have little knowledge about the hereafter or have pat concepts of it drilled into us by organized religion or follow phony beliefs layed out by charlatan spiritualists or just try to avoid that taboo subject. Clint asks, what if it were possible to communicate with the dead and that communication would relieve our dread of dying and would let us still have contact with our loved ones. Unfortunately Clint uses the Amores Perros and Crash filmmaking technique to tell his story, as he borrows from them their gimmicky storyline based on the interconnectedness-of-humanity. The turgid script is supplied by Brit screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon/The Queen), and he leads the very serious disaster film into a globetrotting adventure that hits us with tragedies that face three subjects, in three different countries, and in a portentous manner has the subjects meet at a London Book Fair to tie a ribbon around the dour story with at last some smiling faces. The climax was just as incredulous as Clint’s unconvincing look at the hereafter.

Glamorous and popular French telejournalist Marie Lelay (Cecile De France) is on holiday with her co-worker producer boyfriend (Thierry Neuvic) at a beach resort in Indonesia and experiences a profound spiritual awakening following a near-death experience when she nearly drowns in a tsunami but is saved. Back in Paris, Marie is given a leave of absence to get her head together and she uses the time to write a book about the hereafter. But her Paris publisher prefers a political book that she promised on the former president, Francois Mitterrand, and rejects her memoir on her near-death experience. To the rescue comes an American publisher.

In San Francisco, the unassuming George Lonegan (Matt Damon) was a successful online psychic but grew weary of this gift and began to view it as a curse. The bachelor now works as a forklift operator and at night sits alone in his room and listens to CDs of his favorite author Charles Dickens, while his married businessman brother Billy’s (Jay Mohr) eyes light up envisioning big bucks as he’s just dying to commercially exploit his kid brother’s gift but gets only negative feedback. George is the real deal but shuns his gift as he searches in vain to have a normal life, and even enrolls in an Italian cooking course. But the pretty vulnerable girl (Bryce Dallas Howard) he meets in class who would ensure he’s on his way to normalcy, only runs away from him when she experiences how real is his psychic gift.

In London, 12-year-old twin brothers, Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), live with their loving but drug addicted single parent mom. When Jason is mugged on the street and accidentally run over when fleeing the teenage thugs, mom is sent to a psycho ward as an unfit mom and Marcus falls apart as he is taken in as a foster child by a pleasant couple at the request of social workers. Marcus is obsessed with making contact with his brother in the hereafter, and doesn’t have anything else on his mind but that.

Clint wanders into this hereafter mine field and comes up with a film that is gracefully done but never feels right or makes a connection with the dead or seems to be much more than sentimental drivel. It rolls along in its sleepy own way and when it comes up for air to connect all the dots, as the three destined to meet subjects at last meet–it feels as incredulous as Clint’s blurry white visions of heaven. It left me speechless in the wrong sort of way, as I had no problem with the subject of the film–but it lost me when it kept veering back and forth following its three subjects and never provoked me to think further about the hereafter because I didn’t think this pic had anything revelatory to say about the death experience.

REVIEWED ON 10/30/2010 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”