Movie Review: 'Here After'
Afterlife comedy banks heavily on your Christina Ricci fandom.
Here After is a rather smug and self-satisfied movie that takes some time to settle into. The film stars Andy Karl as Michael, a man recently killed in a car accident. That’s a shame but it gets worse for poor Michael in the afterlife. In the universe of Here After, people can only ascend to heaven in pairs. Thus, if one does not have a soulmate, they will be doomed to walk the Earth until they find a soulmate. If they never find a soulmate, they simply fade out of existence.
Michael thought he had a soulmate but on the day he died, his girlfriend broke up with him and sent him hurtling toward the accident that eventually killed him. Now, he’s in the hereafter where an officious angel, Scarlet (Christina Ricci), lays out his plight. Michael, essentially, has to start dating again. He has to date fellow dead people in order to find his soulmate before he disappears into nothingness.
This is a rather large task as there aren’t many dead people around and most aren’t interested in getting to know a new guy. The soulmate thing, as it is explained, is an almost instantaneous connection and thus if Michael starts talking to a fellow dead person at a bar, they will know right away that he’s not their soulmate and things get awkward quickly. Michael, unfamiliar with the rules, and terrified of not finding a soulmate, continues to hit on women even after they’ve awkwardly explained the concept to him.
Then, Michael has a bizarre encounter with a living woman. Honey Bee (Nora Arnezeder), yes that is really her name and she insists on being called Honey Bee and not just Honey or Bee, is a rare living person who can speak to the dead. She’s happy to chat with Michael and listen to him talk about the afterlife. She’s warm and kind in that Manic Pixie Dream Girl fashion but she’s not perfect. Unfortunately, because she’s alive, Honey Bee can’t be Michael’s soulmate, even as the two begin to connect deeply and romantically.
Here After was written and directed by Harry Greenberger and I must praise him for taking his script into some weird and dark existential areas as well as some high minded romantic areas involving the question of what is love and what does it mean to be a soulmate? Here After features some thoughtful and refreshing conversations regarding the relationships between men and women and what it means to connect as 'soulmates.'
That said, the plot of Here After is rather predictable thanks to the introduction of a character who is more of a device than a person. Alex Hurt plays Patrick, Honey Bee’s former boss and current stalker. He appears to be a harmless dork, at first, but as the movie progresses we see him losing touch with reality more and more. He’s not in many scenes but the character appears enough times to tip the hand of the ending of Here After and sap the energy of the final act.
I also have to quibble with the casting of Christina Ricci. I happen to be a big fan of Ricci and because of that, and how she is by far the most well known and talented actor in the cast, she overshadows the movie. You can see it in the promotional material for Here After, Ricci is the big face on the poster and the name over the title. And yet, she’s hardly in the movie. Ricci comes in, plays a scene and leaves quickly while leaving behind actors not nearly as interesting or charismatic as she is.
I understand the desire to cast a name like Christina Ricci, even as her star has dimmed due to her reduced workload in recent years, but having someone of her talent in a movie opposite two unknown leads, can tend to shine a poor light on those lead performers. Andy Karl and Nora Arnezeder are charming performers but Ricci is a movie star and her presence in Here After is overwhelming, especially with the mechanical plot of the 3rd act stranding the leads as they are moving toward a highly predictable finish.
Here After is not a bad movie, I do admire the movie in many ways. That said, I have not retained much of it as I am now a couple weeks from having first seen it. I had to do a lot of refreshing to remember key details because the movie isn’t memorable enough to linger very long in the memory. The film does have its provocative moments, as I mentioned before, but there is also a sense that the movie is begging you to find it clever. At times, the dialogue that I called refreshing earlier, carries a sort of self-congratulatory air, as if the writer-director were looking for a pat on the back simply for being just a little different than your average romantic comedy. I can see where some audiences might recoil from Here After.
Here After arrives for streaming rentals and a limited theatrical release on July 23rd.