wed 17/07/2019

Life After Beth | reviews, news & interviews

Life After Beth

Life After Beth

Jeff Baena's deliciously daft debut is a rom-zom-com starring Aubrey Plaza

Death Becomes Her: Aubrey Plaza and Dane DeHaan are having a few relationship issues in 'Life After Beth'

Zombies have feelings too. That's the message at the heart of writer-director Jeff Baena's debut Life After Beth, which begins its life as a sensitive indie comedy with a winning deadpan shtick and ends up salivating and snarling after developing an appetite for riotous, blood-splattered slapstick. Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza bags the bizarro role of a lifetime and this quite brilliant comedienne attacks it like a man-eater tearing flesh from bones with only its teeth. She also quite literally does that.

Dane DeHaan gives us a modern day Harold Chasen (from the excellent Harold and Maude). Ghoulishly pale, droopy-eyed and perma-clad in black, we first meet Zach Orfman as he extravagantly mourns for his girlfriend Beth (Plaza), who we see innocently taking a stroll at the outset before her mysterious demise. Zach takes comfort in his burgeoning bond with Beth's parents Geenie and Maury (Molly Shannon and John C Reilly, pictured below right), while his own obliviously upbeat mother Judy (Cheryl Hines) is keen to set him up with the uncomplicated Erica (Anna Kendrick), the daughter of an old school-friend. Then Beth comes back.

Given that our protagonist is romantically entangled with an initially reasonably-well-functioning member of the undead, this rom-zom-com is closer to last year's Warm Bodies than Shaun of the Dead but Baena has at his disposal a much smaller budget than the former (apparently just $2million) and his film has a significantly tighter focus.

Baena's debut also gets considerably more twisted as Beth - who crawls out of her grave in fairly good shape - deteriorates physically and mentally, becoming increasingly erratic and dangerous, especially when her amorous appetite gives way to a different kind of hunger. An enjoyable running gag shows how the only way to soothe this savage beast is by playing smooth jazz - to Zach's utter disgust - which is cranked up to an ear-splitting level when things start to get really ugly.

Plaza goes from a dainty damsel to the Evil Dead

Boasting appealingly odd dialogue (to be expected from the co-writer of the cheerily crackpot I Heart Huckabees), alongside a respectable amount of big and small laughs, Life After Beth is also notable for its precision casting. DeHaan and Plaza make for a memorable double act, with him playing the perfect moody, beleaguered foil to an increasingly sinister sweetheart. Plaza shows impressive range and commitment in a bravura role that takes her from a dainty damsel to the Evil Dead, and allows for both existential anguish and some terrifically silly physical comedy.

Life After Beth benefits from a great title which couldn't fit the resulting film more perfectly - and which in fact virtually sums it up. That it flags around the middle once the initial concept has been drained dry suggests Baena didn't have that many story ideas beyond the basic premise. However, he eventually takes things up a notch (or three) and, while the shift in tone might take a while to bed in, it ultimately results in the movie's most successful sequence which sees the couple take off on their much-mooted hike in very challenging circumstances, making for a wonderfully bat-shit final hoorah.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Life After Beth

 

Aubrey Plaza bags the bizarro role of a lifetime and this quite brilliant comedienne attacks it like a man-eater tearing flesh from bones

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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