Synopsis: A struggling actor dies right after a bad breakup, awakening to a singles Purgatory where he must find his soul mate in order to cross over to the other side as if dating in New York wasn’t hard enough already.
Stars: Christina Ricci, Andy Karl, Nora Arnezeder, Jackie Cruz, Michael Rispoli
Director: Harry Greenberger
Running Length: 121 minutes
TMMM Score: (1/10)
Review: Doing this long enough you know not to make up your mind about a movie in the first five minutes because, more often than not, a film (especially an indie one) needs some time to settle in and shake off some jitters. It’s almost a common courtesy to give some extra breathing room and I’m more than happy to grit my teeth a little longer, giving a movie the benefit of the doubt as long as possible. I tell you this so you know that I tried, I really tried, to give Here After (or, Faraway Eyes, it’s listed as both on IMDb and in the end credits) the widest berth to win me over during its incredibly overstuffed run time. After 125 minutes, I’m afraid that my thoughts toward it at the beginning hadn’t changed much. This was a seriously problematic movie with an especially pungent lead character.
You don’t KNOW how much this bums me out because I truly enjoy Andy Karl (Joyful Noise) who plays Michael, the unfortunate soul who dies in a car crash shortly after breaking up with his girlfriend at the airport. Opening with Michael on a gurney giving a monologue directly to the camera about a sexual escapade he had at 16 involving handcuffs and a cute redhead from school, I’m unsure how writer/director Harry Greenberger thought this would go over to the majority of audience members. Did he think this story would be endearing? Funny? Charming? It’s sort of…misogynistically putrid and everything that happens to Michael after that point you almost completely don’t care about because of how we meet him. Yet we still have two hours to go.
After he dies, Michael has a meeting with Scarlet (Christina Ricci, Mermaids) a platinum haired, glassy-eyed corporate-type heavenly being in a red suit that tells him he died without ever finding his soulmate. He can’t “proceed” without finding his soulmate among the other souls that are currently wandering around without a match. Michael doesn’t take this news well and heads straight for the bar where he launches into another bit of odd stream of consciousness ramblings. Finally, he remembers he has a schmuck uncle (Michael Rispoli, Cherry) who died recently and perhaps he also stuck around and could offer some advice.
This is where the movie truly goes gutter because Rispoli’s character has got to be one of the most repugnant and repulsive creations put to film. Always ready with some trashy remark about the opposite sex or a tired slur about the same sex, Michael’s uncle eventually takes him to a women’s locker room for a man to man talk where they can discuss their situation on finding a mate while invisibly watching naked women walk around. Interspersed through all of these uncle scenes are a bevy of totally filthy comments about body parts, cavities, and sex devices that were almost enough for me to throw in the towel.
The movie thinks it’s picking up when Michael meets Honey Bee (Nora Arnezeder, Army of the Dead) but that’s just when it begins ripping off Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight series. Ever wanted to know what it’s like being on a date with two boring people that are getting to know one another…especially when they start to talk about what kind of music they like? Fire this one up! Loading plot complication upon plot complication, not only is Honey Bee alive but can still see the undead Michael (so couldn’t be the soulmate he seeks), but she also has a psycho stalker (Alex Hurt) that won’t leave her alone. I mean…has he walked around talking about music with her? He’d run for the hills if he had.
I’m a little surprised Broadway star Karl (and he’s great on Broadway, I’ve seen him, I’ve met him, he’s a star, no question) showed up in this. Either he’s a friend of Greenberger or the chance to star in a film was too big of an opportunity to pass up. It’s a shame because Here After is a real dog, for everyone involved. Even the supporting players get stuck with lame dialogue and this odd CGI space that looks like a Zoom background set to ‘Blur’. Poor Jackie Cruz (Midnight in the Switchgrass) …not only does she have to say Greenberger’s gaggingly smug dialogue but she’s wedged into this weird wig. The small bright spot of Jeannie Berlin (Inherent Vice) as Michael’s mom doesn’t burn bright for long, Greenberger keeps making her reference jars of pickles she gave him that he kept in his refrigerator. I know, this sounds odd. Now think about my having to watch it and then recount it for you.
You roll the dice with every movie you watch, and they aren’t all going to be winners. Sometimes you roll the dice so hard they bounce back and hit you in the forehead and that’s what Here After felt like. It’s so thick with heavy-handed plot devices that rely on toxic maleness it’s almost stifling. Speaking of stifling, try not to full on yawn during the closing song from Debbie Harry played over the credits. Advertised on the poster, it was the one thing I was looking forward to as things were drawing to a close but it was just as off-key and strange as the film.