UK Release Date: 3rd October 2014
Runtime: 89 minutes
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Starring: Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, John C Reilly, Molly Shannon, Anna Kendrick, Matthew Gray Gubler
Synopsis: A young man finds his life taking a turn for the incredibly weird when his girlfriend passes away and then comes back from the dead.
The romzomcom, as a genre, arguably began with 2004’s hilarious Shaun of the Dead. Films like Zombieland and Warm Bodies have since kept the genre alive, but none have reached the heights of Edgar Wright’s modern classic. The latest entry in that arena is the utterly bizarre Life After Beth, from I Heart Huckabees screenwriter Jeff Baena. It’s certainly an experience of a film, if not always a successful one.
Zach (Dane DeHaan) is struggling to deal with the loss of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza), who was killed by a snake whilst out hiking. He has been bonding with her parents, Maury (John C Reilly) and Geenie (Molly Shannon), and is looking for direction. But suddenly, Beth reappears and she seems very much alive, until she starts trying to eat people.
Life After Beth might be the weirdest film to be released out of the American system in 2014. It doesn’t feel like a coherent narrative work and seems to veer wildly between a series of insane set pieces that make little sense in isolation and even less sense as part of a wider piece of work.
| "Things are really complicated between us, you know? Like kind of fucked up."
Dane DeHaan is one of the fastest rising stars in cinema right now and his performance in Life After Beth will do nothing to stop his ascent. He does a solid, if unremarkable job, as a man utterly bewildered by what is happening around him – a bewilderment that is shared by the audience. He is supported by an incredibly game Aubrey Plaza, whose comic performance is perfectly ridiculous and expertly overcooked.
There’s a lot to like in Life After Beth, but it’s a film that suffers from its own quirkiness. Characters act in ways that are beyond the realms of even the heightened reality of the film’s universe and everything gets so thoroughly bizarre that nothing really seems to work.
But for all of its weirdness, there are parts of the film that are strangely entertaining. It’s difficult not to find yourself laughing along with some of the more ridiculous moments, even as you find yourself scratching your head in utter befuddlement. There’s a real joy to watching Matthew Gray Gubler running around with a gun as he appoints himself leader of the anti-zombie resistance.
| "I just kind of wish she would stay dead."
Life After Beth is a film that simply could’ve done with a more conventional voice at work on it. In amongst the silliness, it just needed a single firm hand on Jeff Baena’s shoulder to bring the film down to earth. Hipster whimsy is perfectly tolerable, but Life After Beth was completely free of any real charm.
Pop or Poop?
The case of Life After Beth is a sad one, given that it could’ve been such a success. The talent involved is of such a high calibre that the film should’ve been an open goal, but it just lets its oddball nature carry it a little too far.
There are some great performances at the heart of the film and it’s often very funny, but the lack of coherence really costs it dearly.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.