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With Jim Sabatini

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan

Rated: R for pervasive language, some horror violence, sexual content, nudity and brief drug use.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: August 15, 2014 Released by: A24 Films

It's hard to get involved in this hip, but weird post-modern tale perhaps best enjoyed as late night viewing.

A pun is probably intended for Jeff Baena's Life After Beth starring Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan (Amazing Spider-Man 2) which uses a tonal mechanism of insouciant irony that inadvertently promotes a certain amount of ambivalence among some on-lookers and imagery which can't transcend a drabness.

DeHaan's crestfallen Zach is grieving after the loss of Beth Slocum (plaza of the comically risquéThe To Do List and Safety Not Guaranteed where she was much more interesting) from a hiking accident (specifically a snake bite). So, he goes through the process by being with her parents John C. Reilly's Maury and Molly Shannon's Geenie for long stretches. Zach's family, including unpleasant brother (Matthew Gray Gubler) and parents (Cheryl Hines and Paul Reiser) think he's getting more than a little abnormal.

The title gets its name from Zach's stalking the Slocums and finding out that a "Beth" is dwelling there but not in the same corporal form. Baena attempts a certain kind of demented, frantic atmosphere trying to come across as cool in the process, but turning out something more juvenile and generic. The veteran presence of the likes of Reilly, Shannon, Reiser, and Hines have them mostly in caricature, broader turns, and Anna Kendrick contrasted in underwhelming "good girl" fashion. Some will get a rise out memories of a "Thriller" video or even George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead in trying to make Zach's scary milieu resonate, but Life After Beth isn't gravely forceful or witty even in its ethnic, ashen stabs to reclaim an insatiable implacability.

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Life After Beth        D+                     D+ 

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