Published on June 30th, 2014 | by Allan Brown0
EIFF 2014: Life After Beth Review
Movie Review: Life After Beth (2014)
Running Time: 91 mins
Director: Jeff Baena
Writer: Jeff Baena
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Dane DeHaan, Aubrey Plaza, Matthew Gray Gubler, John C. Reilly, Cheryl Hines, Paul Reiser, Molly Shannon
Jeff Baena’s directorial début Life After Beth, is an alternative zombie rom-com that offers as much flesh gnawing charm as it does satirical comedic prowess.
The story centres on Zach (Dane Dehaan), a heart broken teenager who is struggling to come to terms with the recent and untimely death of beloved girlfriend, Beth (Aubrey Plaza). However, Zach along with Beth’s grieving parents, Maury and Geenie Slocum (Molly Shannon, John C Reilly), have their world turned upside-down when Beth reappears at their family home only days after her burial. Without any knowledge or memory of her grim demise, Beth’s perplexing yet altogether welcomed resurrection, is met with both joy and trepidation as Zach readjusts to having his deceased girlfriend back.
No one can deny that the zombie film – in all its guises, has been done to the absolute death (sorry). True to its continual promise, it’s a genre that just keeps coming back (sorry again). From its initial reprisal in 1968, thanks to zombie chieftain, George A Romero, and his gut wrenching masterpiece; Night of the living Dead. The film not only revolutionised the horror genre but also, arguably gave birth to a new horror sub-culture. Now four and a half decades on, with successful TV dramas like The Walking Dead, and the titular balls-out British zombie comedy; Shaun of the Dead, begs the question; are there any fresh angles left in the already over-saturated zombie market worth exploring, or indeed, your time?
An alternative zombie rom-com that offers as much flesh gnawing charm as it does satirical comedic prowess.
Thankfully, the answer is yes, or as close to yes as you’re likely to get. Life After Beth thankfully takes a left turn at an already well-trodden path, offering enough originality coupled with an array of outstandingly unhinged performances from all its cast members, that never fail to hit the mark. Due to Baena’s relatively small budget, the un-dead apocalypse is left relatively unseen, making this venture more of a character piece than its flesh eating counterparts. The comedy is subtle and rarely overplayed (think more Curb Your Enthusiasm than Anchorman) which works beautifully well with the tone of the film and its eccentric characters.
Plaza (Parks and Recreaction) and DeHaan (The Place Beyond the Pines) deliver thoroughly enjoyable performances, shifting from drama to comedy with a seamless quality. John C Reilly and Molly Shannon also offer hilarious precision as Beth’s deluded and extremely over-protective parents. Even Matthew Gray Gubler gets in on the act as Zach’s idiosyncratic, gun frenzied, older brother, Kyle. His interactions with DeHaan are hilarious (think Kip from Napoleon Dynamite) offering many giggles along the way.
It could be argued that there is one or two pacing issues, especially in the second act were Zach and Beth seem to go over the same routine again and again. However these occasional lulls are always short lived, and it isn’t long before the comedy gears shift into motion again.
Summary: With its assortment of delightfully hysterical characters and its tongue firmly planted in its cheek, this surprisingly fresh zombie rom-com deserves its place among the best.