Weird how the zom-rom-com has become an actual subgenre. How many such movies do we really need?
Not that I actually mind. Good movie is a good movie. If the subgenre has life to it, than why not?
Beth has dies on a hike and her boyfriend, who’s name I can’t remember even though I just rewatched the movie. Zach? Let’s go with Zach even though that might have been his brother. Anyhow, Zach has trouble getting over her and tries to bond with her parents, which seems to be going fine… until they stop responding to him. Turns out that they tried to ghost him, because Beth had walked back home the previous night and they didn’t want anyone to know.
Like the Rotten Tomatoes consensus says “[i]n spite of Aubrey Plaza’s committed performance, Life After Beth remains a sketch-worthy idea that’s been uncomfortably stretched to feature length.” I don’t quite agree. I can see where this comes from and it definitely has merit to it, but it is better than that. At least somewhat. They do have a great cast for a movie like this.
The interesting idea in the movie is something they don’t explore very much in the end. In Zach’s mind the relationship had been pretty much over when Beth dies, but not because he wanted to end, but Beth had started to talk about it. However, Beth doesn’t remember this. She had forgotten the last days of her life while in the grave. Does Zach have a moral responsibility to tell her? He sort of tries, but Beth brushed that aside.
Is this a weird form of sexual assault? They do end up having sex (after a couple of false starts), which could be seen as a form of necrophilia. But let’s suppose a friend of yours broke up with someone, for some reason lost their memories, and that significant other took advantage of the situation. How would you feel about that?
The sexual politics of the movie get weird in other parts as well. Later on in the movie it turns out that Beth’s father had tried to coerce their housekeeper into sex. That is played off as a joke and later on Zach actually visits his grave. Well, he visits Beth’s grave, but we also see him press F on the father as well, so there’s no repercussions on it. I did also get a racist vibe off of that situation, as the housekeeper is black and seems to be from the only black family in town.
But as Rotten Tomatoes said above, Aubrey Plaza is the best thing in the movie. We do have a bunch of good actors here (Alia Shawkat was in the movie? Really?), but they don’t get the same screentime as she does, so she shines. In fact, while the cover of the DVD I have does clearly present this as a different kind of zombie movie, the poster used on IMDb and Wikipedia is only the close-up of Plaza. There’s no indication of zombie-ness even in the tagline: Some girls just want to watch the world burn. There is an element of fire in the movie, but as we understand that as based on Alfred’s assessment of the Joker in Dark Knight, that leads you to expect something very different with the weirdly shining smile of Beth.
She does commit to the role, even if the unevenness of the script makes it pretty hard. She’s the number one credit, even though Dane DeHaan has plenty more screentime (a fact I probably shouldn’t read too much into, because these are negotiated). But it’s not only her. It’s the actors in general that elevate this movie. Molly Shannon and John C. Reilly don’t get much screentime, but they do use their time well.
I can’t wholeheartedly recommend this movie. It’s more of a curiosity or something for those few zom-rom-com completionists out there. Maybe it’s a pretty good movie in the background while you are doing something else.