After somehow takes all the potential heat of forbidden love and the anxious discovery of becoming an adult and melds them into a movie that’s almost as exciting as watching people crotchet on live TV. The two leads have just about as much romantic chemistry as Donny and Marie Osmond, while the blathering, sweat-soaked dialogue sounds like gibberish concocted by a robot programmed to mimic the exchange of simpletons falling in love. These 106 minutes move slower than the time I had a tooth crowned and they didn’t give me enough novocaine. Still, as much as I hated this movie and wanted to bash my own face in with a cricket bat while watching it, just you wait: I’m gonna say at least one nice thing about After before this review is over.
Pick up any screenwriting book and you’ll inevitably find a passage that advises against putting voiceover narration in your script. It’s very difficult to include without sounding clunky and expositional. Well, After pretty much dry humps that rule within the first 90 seconds: “My life before him was so simple and decided, now after him…it’s just…after.” Yup, we ain’t even cleared the first scene and we’re already in deep horse puckey.
That line is dreamily recited by Tessa (Josephine Langford), a buttoned-down teen off to her first year at college. Her shallow, obnoxious hover-mom (Selma Blair) deposits Tessa in a dorm room with a stern admonition to do nothing but study. Of course, Tessa pretty much ignores this from the get-go, and enters a frightening world where college students–gasp–vape weed and play beer pong. Her structured life gets further rocked when she Meets
Cute Awkward with Hardin (Hero Fiennes-Tiffin), an arrogant, pretentious classmate.
Let me set the scene for you guys: Tessa, fresh from the shower and wrapped in naught but a towel, tiptoes into her dorm room. She gets startled by Hardin, who has let himself into the room and lies splayed across her bed like a genuine sociopath. Rather than let out a 200-decibel scream, Tessa meekly asks him to turn around so she can dress. Of course, he’s a douchebag creep and wants to watch her disrobe. Thankfully, a roommate enters and shoos him to the hallway, but not before Hardin busts out some claptrap reference to Tessa’s copy of The Great Gatsby. For reasons that pass understanding, Tessa is actually charmed by all this. She likes this cocky pervert.
From here, the movie spends the next 90 minutes taking on water and sinking. Tessa and Hardin exchange dialogue so stilted that it doesn’t sound like any conversation any two people on this planet have had…ever. Both characters alternate between being uninteresting or thoroughly unlikeable: Hardin flippantly plays with Tessa’s emotions, while she acts selfish and cruel toward her high school boyfriend (a judgey, overbearing dude, himself completely unlikeable). The couple hangs around a group of friends so superficial they make the gang from Clueless feel like characters in Little Women. TL;DR: This movie is a masterpiece of unpleasant people doing dumb things for dumb reasons.
I can’t fault Langford or Feiness-Tiffin for all this. If they could’ve made this movie watchable, they would be one miracle away from sainthood. Both actors seem like talented people, and I hope they find meatier roles to play…afterrrr. And don’t get it twisted, I’m a sucker for romantic movies. I just hate it when love gets stripped of its wonder and complexity in favor of vacant, hackneyed storytelling. All that being said, I would like to point out a scene where Hardin and Tessa go to a wedding reception, and the camera pans to the wedding cake. It looked ornate and delicious at the same time. I really wanted a piece. See? I said one nice thing, right under the wire.
106 min. PG-13.
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