Clint Eastwood is knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door….and alas, it ain’t a pretty sight. Now 80 years old, it’s not a huge surprise that the filmmaker is contemplating ‘where to from here?’ but after a glimpse of Hereafter, perhaps such musings are best had in private.
Spreading the leaden themes and deathly pallor across three interminable plotlines, Eastwood introduces us to French journalist Marie (Cécile De France) and her horrifying, life altering ordeal in the 2004 Tsunami; to underprivileged London twins Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren), who are separated tragically young, and finally to the uber-reluctant psychic George (Matt Damon), who wants nothing more than to be rid of these pesky spirits. Despite having given up the spotlight for an underpaid blue-collar existence, his entrepreneurial brother Billy (Jay Mohr) has other plans, shoehorning George into setting up shop again. But George would prefer to take workships rather than run them, so he signs up for a cooking class where he meets the bright eyed and busy tailed Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard), and the ghosts of his past begin to recede from view.
Of the three cliché-ridden storylines, Marie’s is probably the most interesting and De France manages to bring some genuine spirit (no pun intended) to her performance as a woman increasingly desperate for answers. The twins serve up some terribly stilted acting in their quest to reconnect, while Damon is almost wilfully stolid in his efforts to convey hidden torment. To give us a clue, George routinely repeats, “This isn’t a gift, it’s a curse!” Yes, that is the kind of writing you have to suffer through.
Eastwood may have the nagging qualms of old age on his side, but you have to wonder what on earth screenwriter Peter Morgan was thinking? This is the man behind such gorgeously written films as The Last King of Scotland, The Queen and Frost/Nixon. Then again, he also served up the roundly damned The Other Boleyn Girl, so perhaps Hereafter isn’t a complete anomaly.
Eastwood imbues the film with such a glaringly earnest tone, which over the course of an indulgently long 129 minutes becomes simply painful to watch. After Invictus this Eastwood/Damon collaboration is now two for two turkeys, and the diminishing returns from a pair of such Hollywood lions is almost more depressing than the film’s subject matter. One can only hope Eastwood has allayed some of his fears around death and legacy, but in retrospect Hereafter might just end up looking like a massive, melodramatic overshare.
Published in Trespass Magazine
Australian release date: 10 February 2011