Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Movie Review: Life After Beth (2014)

Life After Beth (2014) written and directed by Jeff Baena

Life After Beth starts with Beth's Jewish funeral, where mourners grieve and comfort one another. Zach is (or was) Beth's boyfriend. He is very distraught but is still friends with Beth's parents. He visits them regularly until the day they stop answering the door. He's frustrated and starts snooping around only to discover Beth is back! At first he is angry for being deceived. The parents explain that she just showed up and they are hiding her. Beth has no memory of what happened and is happy to see Zach. After he finishes freaking out he starts hanging out with her and wants to resume the relationship (even though she apparently broke up with him before she died). Things are okay until they want to go on a date outside the house. The parents are dead set against that but he sneaks her out anyway. She starts acting oddly every now and then, which makes Zach nervous that she's eventually going to eat him. He also faces the awkward questions from his own family and his mom's attempt to set him up with a childhood friend.

The movie starts out like it's a quirky independent romantic comedy with a zombie theme thrown in. But it isn't very funny. You'd think there would be some comedy about overprotective parenting or Jews claiming Beth is resurrected "like Jesus" (which they say several times), but their behavior and line delivery is too flatly honest to get a chuckle. The romance is hampered by the ambiguities in Beth and Zach's relationship history. Did they break up? Was she really difficult at times before or is her behavior just the zombie coming out?  Beth could have been a manic pixie dream girl turned tragically evil by zombification but she comes off like she's just occasionally rude and unlikeable (and unnaturally strong with the inevitable unnatural hunger). I never got the sense that there was a great love between them or what he saw in her.

The movie tries to end big with the threat of a zombie apocalypse. It's played for laughs but never land a good punch line. The resolution is formulaic and uninteresting--Beth and Zach's tragic parting is emotionally ho-hum and the solution to the other zombies is nothing viewers haven't seen before in most every other zombie movie. The film just peters out at the end, leaving me wondering why the film makers couldn't pull something more interesting thematically or plotwise from a good premise. The shame is the actors are good at their roles but they aren't given enough to shine.

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