MOVIE: Hereafter (2010)

I remember thinking this film looked unbearably cheesy when I first saw the trailer for it a year or so ago.  When Matt Damon‘s character said the line, “It’s not a gift . . . it’s a curse,” I confess I laughed out loud in the theater, which I’m sure was incredibly annoying to everyone else there with me (sorry, but COME ON).  I had absolutely no intention of ever seeing this movie — none ‘tall — until the other day when my sister recommended it to me.  Not only had she enjoyed it, she said, but it involved a set of twins that had made her think of us (we’re fraternal, but close enough).  We don’t tend to seek out the same kinds of movies, but when we do hit on the same ones, we usually either both like them or both dislike them.  So her recommendation had some weight to it, and I decided to suck it up and give Hereafter a shot.

First things first, it IS ridiculously cheesy at times, especially at the end, when it is also ridiculously hokey.  And, what’s worse, Damon’s character, a psychic who recently retired because talking to dead people was seriously bumming him out, says that “It’s a curse” line not once but TWICE.  TWICE!  TWICE with the world’s most trite and annoying movie line of all time!  Whoever the screenwriter was, I’d like to take him out back and pop him one in the chin.

That said, I was surprisingly entertained by this film, and it made me think some too — not a lot, but some, for sure.  It’s got some interesting ideas about responsibility, the afterlife, perseverance in the face of adversity, the way people latch on to beliefs that don’t make any sense in order to get through difficult ordeals (my two cents), etc.  And it’s well acted, despite the fact it’s not very well-written (not just the dialogue, but it also lacks a clear mission and the end is absolutely unforgivably dumb).

The story comprises three separate tales which converge ham-handedly (but whatever) at the end.  The first is about a guy named George (Damon) who had brain surgery as a child that somehow left him with the ability to talk to dead people.  By touching your hands briefly, he can connect with someone you’ve lost and convey messages back and forth.  But after a successful career doing just that, George burned out and quit.  The constant grief wore on him, and the fact people treated him like a freak didn’t help much either.

So, he threw in the towel and took a new job, this time in construction, and though his brother (Jay Mohr) constantly pressures him to get back into the psychic biz, saying it’s his responsibility as someone with such a unique ability to help people, George is happier living his new “normal” life and wants no part of his old gig.

As his tale unfolds, the film introduces a second story, this time focusing on a young French woman named Marie, a news reporter who nearly dies when a tsunami hits the small island she is vacationing on in the beginning of the movie.  Obsessed with the peaceful visions she had as she was drowning, she begins exploring research on the “hereafter,” ultimately publishing a book on the very controversial and oft-disdained subject.

Meanwhile, the third tale weaves on in, this one about a little boy named Marcus, maybe 7 or 8 years old, whose identical twin brother is hit by a truck and killed one afternoon.  The boy’s mother is sent to rehab and he’s placed into temporary foster care, where he slowly begins to fall apart, lost and untethered without his “big” brother there to guide him (I can see why my sister could relate to this, as she’s always been my tether and guide as well).  When he comes across some web sites about psychics and the afterlife, he immediately robs his foster parents of their rainy-day fund and begins paying a series of kooks to talk to his brother in Heaven for him.  Though he knows each one is a phony, rarely getting any information correctly, he persists, desperate to get both his brother and his previous life back.

The three characters end up meeting at the end of the film (when, where, and how I’ll leave for you to discover, but I hope you believe in tremendously unbelievable coincidences. . .).  We knew it was bound to happen, of course, this being the way movies with parallel story lines typically go.   But even though the plot is predictable, the dialogue is cheesy, and almost all of Matt Damon’s storyline was completely expendable, I really enjoyed the other two plots and their characters, and the actors in those roles (Cécile De France as Marie and Frankie and George McLaren as the twins) did a wonderful job with their complexly emotional parts.

Overall, I’d say this one is well worth a rental if you’re interested in this kind of stuff.  (And, while I’m at it, allow me to also recommend the terrific sci-fi novel Passages by Connie Willis, which is also about the science and theory of the afterlife and is both better written and a lot more engaging than this movie.)

Incidentally, it turns out I’ll never be able to look at Matt Damon again without thinking of this (NSFW):  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSfoF6MhgLA&feature=related.  Hee.  Hee hee.  Hee hee hee hee hee.  Oy.

[Netflix it | Buy it]

Genre:  Drama
Cast:   Matt Damon, Cécile De France, Frankie & George McLaren (the twins), Bryce Dallas Howard, Jay Mohr

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