After.Life

"I cannot lie," the mirror said,"your question is comlex.  Even though you look a deathly chilly mess, your still better looking than the girl from Jonah Hex."

After.Life is the final movie in my series of reviews wrapping up the releases of 2010.  It bummed me out that After.Life never made it to the any of the local theaters here in Possum Squalor; I really wanted to see this on the big screen.  That’s what comes of living in a part of the country that derides Rice-A-Roni as “weird” ethnic food and whose favorite movie according to Netflix is Van Wilder: Freshman Year. I kid you not.

After.Life opens with mortician Eliot Deacon (Liam Neeson) putting the finishing touches on a body before wheeling it out for viewing.  The stiff looks a bit like an older Bill Nighy, only more lifelike and cheerful.  Neeson places a flower in the dead guy’s lapel and takes his picture with one those old style accordion cameras.

We skip to the bedroom of Paul Coleman, played by Justin Long, who aside from being the irritating Mac in the Apple commercials, is well on his way to becoming the 21st Century’s answer to David Manners*.  I rather liked him as the impotent but concerned love interest in Drag Me to Hell.  He plays the same role here, only more obsessive.  He gets points for slapping Jack, an irritating child, across the chops thus giving me a moment of delight I’ll savor for years to come.  Well played, Mac, well played.

Anyway, Paul is busy giving the morning glory to his girlfriend Anna.  His delivery lacks enthusiasm and for good reason too.  First, Anna is just lying there looking bored, like she’s thinking about how the ceiling might look if there was something interesting painted on it, like a scene from a different, possibly better movie.  Second, Anna is played by orb-eyed Christina Ricci, who is attractive, I suppose, but she still looks enough like Wednesday Addams to put down  an erection faster than Jessie Owens, on speed,  riding a beam of light greased with WD-40.

After the icy sex, we’re treated to even icier conversation between the two which ends with Anna showering alone and Paul bathing in de Nile (See what I did there?). Paul does what any totally reasonable guy would do and asks her what’s wrong, following that up with   “I only want us  to be happy again.”   Anna claims that she is happy, which is totally undermined by her using the same tone that I use when being presented with a child’s horrible 30-seconds-of-effort- handmade gift.

“ I do like it.  Thanks.”

She’s happy.  I totally needed potholders made of glue and orange construction paper.  Paul then ups the game by dropping  the “ I love you” bomb.  Anna continues her shower in silence, enjoying the frigid water and a nose bleed.  Paul enjoys the smoke coming from his tail as he spirals toward the hard, cold ground because he just got shot down!

We then follow Anna to work.  She’s a teacher.  When she enters her classroom, she finds a trio of older children bullying a smaller creepy boy.  She tells the bigger boys to leave.  She doesn’t cut a very impressive figure and the boys hesitate momentarily, but comply.  For just an instant I was afraid they were going to go all droogie on her.  The small boy’s name is Jack and apparently he’s read Damien Thorne’s manual “How to be a Creepy Kid” because he’s a creepy kid with extra creep sauce.  Jack, like Paul,  also has an obsession with Anna,  an obsession that will lead to a smacking across his gloopy face later in the movie.

Busy Anna has no time to be stalked by Jack today, she’s off to a funeral.  In fact it’s the funeral for the guy we saw earlier, the guy that looked a bit like Bill Nighy.  The old boy was Anna’s music teacher way back when and she wants to pay her final respects.

After the funeral, she meets up with Paul at a super snazzy restaurant.  How snazzy?  They have cloth napkins, don’t serve extreme fajitas and no have kid’s menu.  How’s that for fancy?  Anna arrives with Paul already seated and waiting – bread basket empty.  As soon as Anna sits down, the waiter materializes at the table and Paul orders the duck for both of them.  Anna gets all bent about it, she might not want the duck, she might want something else.  Paul replies that she always has the duck.  Anna tells Paul that she doesn’t always have the duck and opens the menu, scans it briefly, then deflated, orders the duck.  Paul gamely pushes on.  He’s got big news.  He’s tells Anna that he’s been offered a plum gig in Chicago and before he can elaborate, Anna flips out, angry that she’s being dumped.

Time Out!

Anna may be lovely but she’s not too bright.  No guy is going to shell out for a fancy meal in what is clearly an expensive restaurant just to dump a girl.  Am I right guys?  You take the classy way out: Get your key back, then text her that it’s over.  Or if you want to be really smooth, just change your Facebook status to single and “un-friend” her.

Paul, in spite of how badly things are going between the two of them, was going to offer her an engagement ring, but that’s going to be difficult with her ranting and storming out of the restaurant.  Anna, crying and stomping out the restaurant, gets in her car and does the “drive angry in the rain” shtick, pausing only to play around with her cell phone and get into a terrible car accident.

The next thing Anna knows is that she is laying on a  metal table, unable to move, wearing only her red slip.   Eliot Deacon, who we met earlier, is carefully stitching closed a rather large, bloodless gash in her forehead.  Naturally she’s not too happy about all of this and wants to know what is going on.  Eliot explains that Anna is dead.  Anna disagrees.  We’re off to the races!

After.Life turns on the question of whether Anna is dead and or not.  Can Eliot really converse with he dead as he claims, or is his melon missing some vital seeds?  This is where most of movie occupies itself – in the struggle between Anna and Eliot –  with Paul and Adam hopping around the background trying to work through their own loss.  I enjoyed Neeson and Ricci in their respective roles.  Neeson brings gravity and conviction to the film.  Ricci has a ethereal quality laced with fear that works well.  Considering that through much of the movie nothing much actually happens, it goes by quickly, largely due to the interesting performances by the leads and our own hunt for clues as to whether Anna is really alive or dead.

On the face of it After.Life is one of the movies that sets us up for the big twist ending, but that really isn’t the case. Writer/ director Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo tips her hand too early.  I have mixed feelings about that.  She could have taken the plot device all the way to the film’s conclusion without spilling the beans and I’d have been more than satisfied – but that is just me.  Your mileage may vary.

There were some plot holes that I found annoying, but I’m not going to talk about them because that would take us into spoiler country, besides they don’t have a direct bearing on the story as such, but rather just sort of nag at me as being inconsistent with the ending of the movie.  If you see After.Life and  spot some plot holes, feel free to reply below or hit me up on Twitter.

*David Manners was the love interest in Dracula, The Mummy and The Black Cat. He also co-starred in a few comedies and dramas with some of the leading actresses of the day.

Starring:
Christina Ricci
Liam Neeson
Justin Long
Chandler Canterbury

Director:
Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo

Screenplay:
Agnieszka Wojtowicz-Vosloo
Paul Vosloo
Jakub Korolczuk

Two and a half of five Vincents

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