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|Life After Beth|
dir-scr Jeff Baena
prd Elizabeth Destro, Michael Zakin
with Aubrey Plaza, Dane DeHaan, John C Reilly, Molly Shannon, Anna Kendrick, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jim O'Heir, Alia Shawkat, Paul Weitz, Garry Marshall
release US 15.Aug.14, UK 3.Oct.14
I'm so glad we took this hike: DeHaan and Plaza
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
EDINBURGH FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
A deranged comical riff on the zombie genre, this movie sometimes feels like it isn't sure where it's heading, but filmmaker Baena has clever twists and turns up his sleeve. And the cast gets the balance between humour and horror exactly right.
After their daughter Beth (Plaza) dies from a snakebite, her parents (Reilly and Shannon) struggle to cope, as does her soulful boyfriend Zach (DeHaan). Then out of the blue, Beth turns up back home alive. Or rather, reanimated. And she doesn't have a clue what has happened to her. Over the next few days, Zach begins to notice other previously deceased people walking around town. And when he meets old friend Erica (Kendrick), Beth's jealousy seems to unleash a full-on zombie apocalypse.
As with Shaun of the Dead, this story exists on the fringe of the walking-dead chaos, centring instead on the characters' interconnections. The plot is packed with ingenious wrinkles, such as how Beth has no memory of trying to break up with Zach, so he can now carry on as if everything is fine. And Beth's parents desperately try to maintain a semblance of normality, reluctantly allowing Zach to be alone with their reborn daughter whose wild mood swings only calm down when she hears mellow jazz.
The witty script perfectly gels with performances that often feel improvised. Plaza is hilarious as a teen who can't understand why everyone around her is being so weird. As she degenerates, her reactions are funny and freaky at the same time. Meanwhile, DeHaan is the film's heart, a guy who gets a second chance with the girl he truly loves, then has to make some difficult decisions. Around them, Reilly and Shannon provide impeccably timed gags, as do Hines and Reiser (as Zach's parents) and especially Gubler (as his gung-ho cop brother).
Most surprising is how each scene is packed with telling observations about love and grief, which makes Zach and Beth's romance genuinely sweet. Of course this mash-up style also offers Baena plenty of scope for playing with zombie-horror iconography. There's a sense that the film is spiralling out of control along with the events on-screen, and some gags feel stretched beyond the breaking point. But the film retains a startlingly involving tone that adds a blast of resonant emotion to the hilariously crazed carnage.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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