Flick of the Month: Afterlife of the Party (TV-PG)
Victoria Justice plays an extroverted, party-chasing young woman in the Netflix original Afterlife of the Party. She dies suddenly and is forced to revisit her life a year after her passing to wrap up unfinished business with her loved ones. Though not my favorite of the Netflix creations, this film was a refreshing, lighthearted watch at face value.
Justice’s performance felt familiar to me – likely because her style of acting seemed to reflect that of her role in Nickelodeon’s Victorious. Though her character, Cassie, is similar in design to her past role, Tori, I saw little variation in her approach and craved more character development. Her best friend, Lisa, followed a much more satisfying character arc and was, frankly, one of the only redeemers of the film, in my opinion.
Overall, I felt the plot was rushed and shallow. Cassie is meant to return to Earth as a ghost who only her best friend and a few others can see and bring closure to her life and the lives of her father, mother and best friend. I believe the resolution of this movie tried to force a deeper meaning and level of drama and sentiment that simply wasn’t there. When Cassie reaches the end of her time limit on Earth, she slips up and doesn’t quite complete her tasks in their entirety – however, little to our surprise, they find an exception and allow Cassie to pass on to “The Above.” The plot generally was redundant, forced and not totally consistent. While it was still a bit of fun, I did find many grievances to note.
Granted, I appreciated the somewhat unique order of things following Cassie’s death. Expecting a Groundhog Day-type pattern, I was pleased to see the originality in how they navigated Cassie’s return to Earth and her ultimatum. For a light, surface-level evening of entertainment, consider Afterlife of the Party.
Show of the Month: Stranger Things 4 (TV-14)
And now, for the main event: Stranger Things 4. I won’t lie – I nearly skipped this season after the gradual decline of this show’s past few seasons, but I am so glad I didn’t. All our favorite kids return with a season more profound than any we’d seen since its release.
Even if the cycle of “new villain, same plot” gets old, they at least made the newest episodes a true cinematic experience. Eddie Munson is a terrific new character, whose subtle fight with Steve over Dustin kept me very entertained. Additionally, Jamie Campbell Bower as Peter (or One) was another excellent addition to the cast. I am thrilled for the release of the final two episodes in July to see how they continue to shock us.
As a character, Max has been astounding this season. Her torments and her process were so consuming, and her delivery just worked. We’ve probably all heard the Kate Bush song that plays a huge part in her storyline by now – it’s a banger, for sure. I loved the larger focus on her after she lost her step-brother, Billy. The complexity in that situation was real and intriguing as she navigated grief over someone that she had a very difficult relationship with. Billy gave his life to save her and her friends in season three, and the aftermath is explored so beautifully in the latest season.
It has also been fascinating to see more of Eleven’s past with the Hawkins Laboratory and the infamous “Papa,” or Dr. Brenner. Though hard to watch, this delve into her past trauma brings a nice amount of closure to all the curious minds wondering more about her origin and childhood in the lab.
I can’t say enough about how fantastic the first part of season four was. If you were like me, deciding whether or not to fall off the Stranger Things train, stick it out for this season – watch Hopper be the toughest human being alive, see Eleven relearn her powers, the camaraderie between the kids even across state lines, and the thought-provoking development of each character and previously unexplored plot points. As it is still so new, I will refrain from other spoilers, but I insist that you hang on for this season if you’re a fan of the franchise. Stranger Things 4 is, absolutely, one of the best seasons of a show I’ve ever seen. Here’s to hoping the final two episodes will do the first part justice.