It's a Wonderful Afterlife

2010-11-12 16:39
It's a Wonderful Afterlife
What it's about:

An Indian-English mother's desperate obsession with marrying her daughter off tips over into a series of bloody murders and she soon finds herself haunted by the ghosts of the victims. The only way she can get these ghosts to move on to their next reincarnation is by finally getting someone to marry her nice but plump daughter.

What we thought:

Yes, that really is the plot. Yes, it really is that stupid. No, I don't know what director Gurinder Chadha was on when she a) decided to turn this moronic plot into a film and b) why she decided to name it after one of the most beloved films of all time.

What I do know though is this: It's A Wonderful Afterlife is an absolute disaster of a movie. As I watched this Hindenburg of a film come crashing down in flames before my very eyes, I could not for the life of me figure out just what it was that Chadha was actually trying to achieve with a film that is part dopey ghost story, part black comedy, part romantic drama and part gruesome horror. Regardless of her intentions, what she ultimately landed up making was a film that is a textbook example of how not to mash a multitude of disparate genres together, how not to make a romantic-horror-gallows comedy. That the director who rose to fame with the über-confident Bend It Like Beckham could make a film this inept is simply stunning.

Everything that is so very, very wrong with It's A Wonderful Afterlife is neatly captured in a single scene in the middle of the film. The scene could, I suppose, be considered an homage to the pig-blood-drenched climactic prom scene of the 70s horror classic, Carrie. "Homage" is probably pushing it though. Woefully amateurish re-enactment is probably more accurate. Either way, just what on earth was the ending of Carrie doing in the middle of all of this? Was It's A Wonderful Life not enough? Did we really need to have Carrie's good name dragged into the mud as well?

I don't even like the horribly dated Carrie and I still thought this was sacrilegious. The scene is woefully unfunny, nonsensical, pointless, badly thought out, badly acted, badly written, badly directed and knuckle-bitingly, teeth-gnashingly irritating. I ask again: what the hell was it doing in this film?

Mind you, I think the bigger question really is, just what the hell is this film doing in my cinema? It's not like the rest of the film fares any better. We have a bunch of TV actors, one or two of which are usually pretty solid, hamming it up like crazy, clearly unrestrained by any real direction from Chadha herself. They're annoying enough as it is but there is only so much you can blame on the actors when the characters they play are this badly written. Remember the TV show The Kumars At No. 42? Remember how the characters were clearly being played as broad stereotypes of "typical" Indians? Well, Chadha takes similar stereotypes, loses any sense of irony that that show might have displayed and replaces it with inconsistent characterisations, wonky internal logic and completely confounding character arcs.

The Carrie scene might have been the film's nadir but there really wasn't that far to fall. That scene might have everything that is wrong with the movie in one place but the rest of the film's constant bouncing from flaccid surrealism to unfunny broad humour to unconvincing relationship-driven drama to pat Eastern mysticism was almost as bad. It's A Wonderful Afterlife is neither It's A Wonderful Life nor is it Wonderful. It's simply a bad film that will trouble our cinemas only momentarily, I'm sure, before ending up (quite deservedly) in crappy bargain bins in crappy DVD stores. And good riddance to it.

That the director who rose to fame with the über-confident Bend It Like Beckham could make a film this inept is simply stunning.

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