Death Be Not Proud

In Hereafter, Clint Eastwood contemplates the great beyond — with mixed results.
Sara Vilkomerson | October 15, 2010
Dallas Bryce Howard and Matt Damon in "Hereafter."

It’s hard to say a bad word about Clint Eastwood. The man is freakin’ Clint Eastwood for goodness sake! He has five Academy Awards, five Golden Globes, a Screen Actors Guilt Life Achievement Award, two Cannes Film Awards, and he is, at 80 years old, every bit as flinty and awesome as ever.

So, it’s going to be interesting to see what the general consensus will be for Hereafter, Eastwood’s 31st as director. Early reviews are mixed!

J. Hoberman at Village Voice writes, “Eastwood rides a sleepy burro deep into Iñárritu territory. Multiple story lines cross international borders to mix personal tragedy with post-9/11 existential terror: Hereafter is a mawkish mondo mistico, obvious, schematic, and sometimes subtitled.”

Rex Reed, on the other hand, points out, “Hereafter might be tender, but in no way is it the work of a tenderfoot. It’s a change of pace, but it exemplifies every carefully honed aspect of the treasured director’s craft. Besides, Mr. Eastwood has earned the right to make any kind of movie he wants (at unthinkable expense), and when a man reaches his midnight years, it’s perfectly understandable that he starts contemplating the afterlife.”

Whether it’s Clint contemplating the great beyond, or just being done in by the surprisingly sincere Peter Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) screenplay, what perhaps is most interesting about Hereafter it will undoubtedly be compared to 1990’s Ghost (or maybe even The Sixth Sense). Hey, it’s hard to take a psychic who can speak to the dead seriously (even if it is being played by Matt Damon) once you’ve got Whoopie in your head (if this isn’t a Hollywood golden rule yet, maybe it should be).  Or maybe it’s just no one is that comfortable with thinking about the afterlife…be in What Dreams May Come or The Lovely Bones or even Flatliners. (As Lisa Schwartzbaum at Entertainment Weekly cited in her review, “The great philosopher Woody Allen once said, ”I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.’”).

The strongest scenes in Hereafter come early: the recreation of the 2004 tsunami is as breathtaking, terrifying and as well done as any action flick of recent memory (eat your heart out Michael Bay!); the painful tableaux of a lonely man sitting alone in silence eating dinner; or a young boy wishing his departed twin brother goodnight before turning out the lights.  But then things get a little murky in the middle, and sort of gradually slide into a different movie altogether; “Clint Eastwood’s supernatural drama Hereafter starts big and ends small, its hold gradually slackening, its thread dissolving,” wrote David Edelstein (who also hilariously compared the visions of  the dead to “the old TV promos for Lost” in New York magazine). Will devoted Eastwood fans find their way to theaters to watch this one? Clint Eastwood did apparently refer to the tone of the film as a chick flick, “But one that men will like, too. Or at least one that won’t make them want to stick a Swiss Army Knife in their leg.” Now there’s the tough guy we love.

This will be Sara Vilkomerson’s final post for Girl on Film. Starting soon, she will be a senior writer at Entertainment Weekly. Congratulations to Sara — we wish her the best!  Next week, look for an announcement about THIRTEEN’s new film blogger. Stay tuned.