WARNING: mild spoilers may be ahead!
Life after Beth is a film by Jeff Baena (writer, I Heart Huckabees) and stars Aubrey Plaza as Beth, the recently deceased girlfriend of protagonist Zach (Dane DeHaan). Zach arrives at Beth’s parents’ house one day and miraculously sees Beth through the window. Beth, now a member of the living dead, is being forced to remain in hiding by her parents (Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly), at the annoyance of Zach, who fights hard to get Beth out into the real world. As time goes on, Zach notices something is off about other people in the town whom he hasn’t seen in a while. He also realizes that Beth isn’t quite the same person that he knew when she was alive.
Baena’s directorial debut is an attempt to turn the zombie genre on its head. The comedy has strong talent across the board, but at times fails to show up when it comes time to make a scene memorable. Plaza is the standout performance, by far, as she plays a zombie who doesn’t understand that she’s dead and who, once she finds this information out, can’t contain her zombie urges. Beyond Plaza, you have some noteworthy supporting roles that are surprisingly good considering the static nature of those characters. Shannon and Reilly shine as Beth’s neurotic and protective parents, and their scenes seem to be the funniest of the film. Also strong is Matthew Gray Gubler (Criminal Minds) as Zach’s eccentric, gun-obsessed brother. Anna Kendrick, too, as the sweet but ultimately one-note “other girl,” has a fairly good performance as well, playing the character with the perfect amount of awkwardness.
The real problem with this film lies in the narrative. Beth’s character is novel, in a way, but once it’s understood that she is a zombie there isn’t much room upon which the situation can expand. The interactions between Zach and Beth become repetitive and unnecessary, but without them the movie would likely only clock in at 45 minutes. The secondary plot involving Zach’s family and their safety in the impending zombie apocalypse feels similarly unnecessary, because Zach never really has to deal directly with any dangerous zombie other than Beth. It is clear that the story is meant to revolve around her and Zach’s relationship, yet an unseen war seems to be afoot around them that holds no stakes to the film itself.
To be honest, I liked this movie. The acting all around is good. Even DeHaan, who I don’t view as a comedic actor, made me laugh a few times. It is a dark comedy leaning far more heavily on the comedy, which makes the dark moments seem out of place. And the plot is mishandled in certain ways. Other than that, this film is not bad. Would I watch it again? Probably not. Am I glad I watched it at all? Yeah.
I think if you’re a fan of Aubrey Plaza, this is a movie that you should definitely see. If you’re a fan of the improv comedy scene, this is a movie that you might enjoy due to some small cameos.
As always, thanks for reading!
Have you seen Life after Beth? If so, what did you think?
–Alex Brannan (@TheAlexBrannan)