Afterlife of the Party: Send me to Hell, it's more entertaining.
Netflix's Afterlife of the Party is a film that is best described as tedious, by the numbers and overall, not funny. The story of a person returning from the dead to redeem themselves/become a better person is a story that has been told through film numerous times and can be interesting if done right. However, this movie does nothing to make it stand out from the crowd. The 2021 release, brought to you by Front Row Films and Dae Light Media, is an exercise in how to take an interesting idea and letting it go down the toilet like a post booze-binge puke.
The story would follow Cassie (Victoria Justice), a young socialite/party-girl who is celebrating her 'birthday week' with her reluctant best friend Lisa (Midori Francis). Following an argument between the two of them, Cassie goes home where she dies from slipping in the bathroom and hitting her head on a toilet that ironically plays 'ring around the rosie'. She soon meets her 'temporary guardian angel' Val (Robyn Scott) who tells her that she can go to heaven if she makes amends with her parents (Adam Garcia & Gloria Garcia) and Lisa in five days.
The story has a lot of exposition in the beginning that is directed at the audience and comes off as forced. If Cassie and Lisa are 'best friends since first grade' they should not have to openly say information about their jobs and their personalities. With that in mind, if they are 'best friends', why doesn't Cassie know more about her friend's work, especially since she is shown to be social and knowledgeable of all of her friends? It makes no sense. The film's story has to jump through a lot of hoops in order to make the plot work. For example, in order for Cassie to talk to Lisa, she hums a song and that allows them to talk to each other. But it makes no sense when later in the film, Cassie can manipulate the physical world, including writing notes. Why not write a message to talk to people? While the point is that Cassie is trying to make a connection with her friend and family, it is a massive plot hole. Cassie's parents also feel like an afterthought as their resolution is done is relatively fast time while Lisa has more attention with her.
The characters in this movie are nothing worth mentioning to be honest with likeability being difficult to find. While the actors do a decent job with what they are given, none of them give the audience a memorable performance or stand out amongst the cast. Lisa's character is the closest to being relatable and likeable and even then, it is because she is one of the few people in the film that is treating her dead friend's reappearance for what it is. But even then, her charm quickly runs out when her arc is a re-hashing of How Stella Got Her Groove Back as a character who has to balance work and love. Val, despite being a nice break from Cassie, doesn't really do much except for offer exposition.
However, the character that comes off as the most unlikeable is the main character Cassie. From the very beginning of the movie, she comes off as vapid, self-obsessed and ignorant at times. After her argument with Lisa where she describes their friendship as a 'habit', she loses all likeability. While she does have an arc of personal growth in the movie, it is difficult for anyone to sympathize or like her at all. Also it doesn't help that she does not fully treat the realization of an afterlife with any real gravity or seriousness.
The cinematography and camera work is passable at best. While a lot of the shots keep the focus, there are also so many that drift away from the focus and hold in positions that do no help the film. The musical score in this movie also does not help the film at all. The movie wedges music to try to persuade the audience that scenes are 'dramatic' or 'fun' when they have the subtlety of a hammer. The movie also has a heavy focus on a fictional band called 'Koop' (Not to be confused with real life Swedish EDM group Koop' that comes off as repetitive and attention seeking.
The set designs and costuming in the movie are boring as well. The Purgatory/Heaven stand-ins (The In-Between and The Above respectfully) come off as bare basic and visually uninteresting. How do you make the afterlife aesthetically boring? Even the worst effects would have been better than just having an apartment setting, a hallway a lobby and a generic garden represent your afterlife. Lil Nas X's heaven in his Montero music video was more creative than this.
The editing in this movie is awful. There are too many unnecessary cuts in the film that do not contribute anything to the film. One example of this can be found in the beginning of the movie, where Cassie and Lisa are starting to party. When Lisa is pushed back and starts to walk away, there is a cut of her less than two feet away, in the same position.
Afterlife of the Party is a film that doesn't work for a lot of reasons; the characters, the plot, the camerawork and so on. It is a shame because this could have made for a decent drama. Imagine, a party goer has to actually deal with the ramifications of their actions and is confronted for all of the BS they might have done in their life and them having to deal with unanswered questions. But this is not the film to look for that. If you want an average at best film to kill an hour and forty nine minutes, this will do it, but you won't get much out of it.
Afterlife of the Party is available on Netflix.