By: Kevin Jordan
Prior to screening The Aftermath, I was looking for a quick synopsis of the film because I knew nothing about it. The first thing that popped up in the Google search was a review for The Aftermath subtitled “The Aftermath is the cinematic equivalent of crying after sex.” This nearly made me spit-take coffee all over my laptop. On the surface, it is a hilarious way to describe a movie and is full of possibilities. Imagine my disappointment when, after watching the film, I went to read the article and discovered that I would have to subscribe to a Canadian newspaper called The Globe and Mail in order to read it. That is definitely not going to happen. I can’t even see the name of the writer without the subscription, so I am going to have to live with never knowing what the writer meant. And, judging by that byline, it is probably really funny. Which is the exact opposite of The Aftermath – decidedly not funny.
The Aftermath is set in post-World War II Hamburg, Germany, about five months after Germany surrendered. Sweeping aerial shots show us the decimated husk that is Hamburg, including thousands of German people living on the edge of starvation in tent cities. See? Not funny.
(SPOILER ALERT. If you want to figure out on your own why this film is the equivalent of crying after sex, stop reading now.)
Rachael Morgan (Keira Knightley) arrives in Hamburg to meet her husband, British Colonel Lewis Morgan (Jason Clarke), who has been placed in command of the British occupation forces in the city. The couple is assigned to live in a mansion commandeered from German architect Stefan Lubert (Alexander Skarsgard) and his daughter, Freda (Flora Thiemann). Stefan has prepared to relocate to the tent camp, but is surprised with Colonel Morgan invites Freda and him to stay and live on the third floor. See what the screenwriter/author (this film is based on a book I have not read) did there? Also, awkward.
Given that this movie is classified as a drama/romance, you don’t get any points for guessing where the main storyline of this film goes. And of course it goes there. Rachael is forced to live in a recently conquered country, with a husband she hasn’t seen in years and who is constantly running out to deal with flare-ups, in a house that isn’t hers, with a polite, hunky man who looks suspiciously like Tarzan. What you might not guess is the movie does exactly zero work to develop the affair beyond Stefan yelling at her to kick them out of the house early in the film. He literally forces a kiss on her during this exchange in order to piss her off to further persuade her to evict them. Instead, love blossoms. Or something.
The only thing left standing in Hamburg.
Rather than develop the characters to the point where the affair is believable, the film elects to defend the affair with dead kids. No, seriously. Both Stefan and Rachael are coping with their children having been killed in bombings of their home cities. On top of that, Stefan’s wife is also dead. With Lewis constantly away, that leaves two lonely, grieving adults sharing a giant house together in a war-ravaged city. Who doesn’t get naked in that situation?
Stefan and Rachael aren’t the only forced relationship. Freda hates having to share their house with the Brits and, at one point, literally hisses at them on her way out the door to school. By this time, she is stealing from them and giving the ill-gotten goods to a German resistance group still fighting for Hitler. Yet, two seconds later, she is having a tender moment at the piano with Rachael, playing a duet together. Suuuure.
Soapiness aside, everything in this movie deals with the aftermath of something. War, bombings, death, Nazis, absentee husbands who irrationally blame their wives for their death of their sons…pick your tragedy. And all of them have consequences, be it illicit affairs, Germans who refuse to admit defeat and continue killing people, pissed off daughters forced to share their house with the conquerors, broken marriages…pick your tragedy. This cornucopia of sadness is so plentiful it suffocates the development of everything in the film. What’s left is a far from believable affair and a bunch of distracting side stories.
The news is not all bad. The cinematography is gorgeous, as are the costumes. If not for all the death and sorrow, it’s a lovely film. Maybe that is what that critic meant about crying after sex. If something is pretty enough, you’ll convince yourself to sleep with it, but you won’t feel good about it afterward.
Rating: Ask for all of your money back. It really isn’t that pretty.
By: Kevin Jordan
Don’t go up there.
There are some risks that I am willing to take – watching the latest M. Night Shyamalan movie, trying my friend’s latest red chile, using the bathroom after my brother after he ate that red chile. Then, there are risks that I won’t take – watching the latest Melissa McCarthy movie, trying my wife’s latest quiche, using the bathroom after my wife ate that quiche (just kidding – love you!). But there also are risks that nobody should take and that list begins with climbing Mount Everest (it ends with using the bathroom after Gary Busey, ever).
At one point during Everest, one of the characters (Michael Kelly) ask the rest of the team why they are climbing Mount Everest. It’s a very interesting question, and the movie does pretty much everything it can to avoid having its characters answer it. It’s hard to blame the writers, though, because there is pretty much only one reason – narcissism – and that makes it harder for the audience to sympathize with characters. There is no monetary or physical reward and since it’s been done before, nobody is going to make a big deal out of it or remember that you did it outside of people who already know you. So, the only thing you get out of it is bragging rights and $65,000 less in your bank account. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s an amazing physical achievement, but then so is the ability to eat sixty-nine hot dogs in ten minutes (which is also on the list of risks you should never take).
Everest is based on an event that happened in 1996 when several teams of climbers tried to summit Mount Everest at the same time. The film focuses on two groups, one led by Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) and the other led by Scott Fischer (Jake Gyllenhaal), that end up teaming together for their final ascent, but meeting with disaster. Now, before you get all huffy about spoilers, I promise I won’t tell you who lives or dies. I purposely avoided watching previews and reading anything about the actual event for that same reason. But, if going into this film you aren’t expecting some of them to die, you should know the movie begins by telling the audience that one out of four people who try to climb Everest die. In other words, you will spend the movie trying to guess which of them will become corpsicles. In case you think I’m being glib, it’s 100% true that the bodies of people who die while climbing Mount Everest are left there. As Hall puts it during an early briefing to his team, “your body will literally be dying” as you try to climb. There is simply no way the living can drag bodies down without dying themselves.
Since there’s nothing more to the plot than that, let’s go back to that WHY question for a moment. Among Hall’s team who kinda, sorta answer the question are:
- Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin) – a rich Texan who says he only feels alive when he is climbing and not when he is with his wife and kids. If there is one character in this movie you won’t sympathize with, it’s him.
- Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) – an ordinary man who works multiple mundane jobs to make ends meet. He says he is doing it to show a classroom full of kids that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things. This is one of those times when kids should heed the advice, “Do as I say, not as I do.” In other words, achieve extraordinary things, but some of you will definitely die if you try to climb Everest.
- Yasuko Namba (Naoko Mori) – a Japanese woman who has climbed to the highest point on every continent except Asia. She is the ultimate hoarder, er…collector.
As you can see, it’s a little difficult to root for any of those people, even Doug because this is his second shot at it (I’m sorry, but he’s not just doing it for the kids at this point). That leaves us with Fischer and Hall, both of whom lead expeditions as their business. On one hand we have Fischer, who previously worked with Hall, but broke off on his own. He’s a great climber, but he drinks and takes unnecessary risks in the worst possible place to do either, so he’s out. On the other hand we have Hall. He has a pregnant wife at home (Keira Knightley) and is considered the best in the business. But he has a fatal flaw in that he’s a little too nice – covering people’s satellite phone expenses and not forcing clients to turn around when he absolutely knows better. You can forgive him for the first one, but the second one can get people killed. If not for the pregnant wife, it would be hard to root for him as well.
If you haven’t figured it out by now, not answering the WHY question is the biggest problem with this film. But, the good news is that everything else about the movie is very good. The pacing is done very well as the movie slowly moves us closer and closer to the final ascent and descent by precluding it with scenes of the climbers acclimating to the environment (or not, in some of their cases). It builds good relationships between the characters and does an exceptional job of not giving obvious hints as to who doesn’t make it back down. Even better, the special effects are top notch and the views we see are amazing. It’s definitely worth a viewing on the Imax, though without the 3-D if you can find it (unless you are sitting just right, 3-D loses the depth that this movie is touting).
When we walked out of the theater, some people were crying but I wasn’t one of them. Like I said, I think it’s an amazing feat, but I’m not going to feel bad for anyone who dies trying to do something so hilariously dangerous when the only benefit is their name on a plaque. At least the hot dog guys win a prize for their achievement and the next people to try it don’t have to step over their frozen bodies.
Rating: Despite the tone of this review, I do think it was a pretty good movie and that you should only ask for the 3-D surcharge money back.
By: Kevin Jordan
Growing up is hard.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get just one movie about several different relationships that wasn’t an insipid ensemble movie featuring several pairs of people with tenuous, at best, connections between each other? You know what I’m talking about – movies like Valentine’s Day or Love Actually or What to Expect When You’re Expecting. Yeah, I know that last one is about pregnancies, but that didn’t stop it from sucking as hard as a hungry infant. My point is that Laggies is that movie you were waiting for. Unless, of course, you’re actually waiting for Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar, in which case maybe you don’t care about movies like Laggies at all and you probably clicked on this review because you just wanted to know what the hell a laggie is.
Even after seeing the movie, I’m not really sure what a laggie is, but I think it refers to people who are lagging behind their peers in some way or another. I know – my insight is astounding. Anyway, Keira Knightley plays Megan, our main laggie. She’s 28 years old with an advanced degree, but works for her dad as a sidewalk sign twirler and still thinks tweaking a giant Buddha statue’s nipples is hilarious (for the record, she’s right). She is still close with her high school circle of friends and still dating her high school sweetheart. Her friends and boyfriend, Anthony (Mark Webber), are all “grown up” while Megan still goes over to her parent’s house to surf cable have build-your-own-pizza night. I’m not sure what Anthony sees in Megan, but she must make one hell of a pizza, if you know what I mean.
Suffice it to say, Megan is basically still in high school and this point is emphasized when she befriends a group of teenagers when she buys booze for them. She quickly becomes close friends with their de facto leader, Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz). After a couple of days of hanging out and a marriage proposal by Anthony, Megan decides to crash at Annika’s house for a week to figure things out. Say it with me – SLEEPOVER! With a…28 year old!?…sign-twirler who misses skateboarding and buys liquor for minors? When do the cops show up and where are Annika’s parents?
Speaking of which, this is the point at which Sam Rockwell shows up, playing Annika’s father, Craig. Craig is a divorced divorce-lawyer whose ex-wife, Bethany (Gretchen Mol), ran out on Annika and him when Annika was just eight. We briefly meet Bethany somewhere around the half-way mark of the film, which is also the point at which we realize this movie is actually a coming-of-age story, rather than a relationship story, thus further explaining “laggies.” It’s also at this point that you notice Knightley is delivering an unexpectedly great performance.
For the first half of the film, Knightley is acting like a child and speaking like a child. It gets kind of annoying and you start to wonder how she doesn’t get slapped by people more often, especially by her bitchy friend, Allison (Ellie Kemper), who really didn’t appreciate Buddha’s nipples being tweaked. When Megan goes with Annika to see Bethany, her voice drops at least two octaves and her mannerisms age roughly twenty years. It’s the kind of performance that makes you pay attention and wonder how she could be the same person that crapped the bed in Pride and Prejudice. And, Megan’s not the only one we see advancing. Annika matures past her devil-may-care, rebellious teenage attitude, as do her friends. All of them are dealing with various relationships and all of them deliver performances that make you believe that those relationships might not be 100% fiction.
What’s really good about this movie is that there is at least one relationship or character that we all can relate to. We all know a Megan (or nine) in our lives, and who doesn’t have friends whose parents got divorced – or are divorced themselves? It’s a refreshing movie that doesn’t get too serious with those relationships, but doesn’t make any of them preposterous either. When all is said and done, you’ll walk away from this film satisfied, though I still wonder what a laggie is.
Rating: Ask for two dollars back. If there’s a flaw with this movie, it’s that Sam Rockwell is given nowhere near enough screen time, and honestly, he’s the main reason I went to this movie.