After reading the description of the film, one might think of it to be as great as Netflix’s Russian Doll. But Afterlife of the Party is as forgettable and rushed as it can be.
Starring Nickelodeon star Victoria Justice as the lead protagonist Cassandra, AKA Cassie, the film deals with a party animal who loves hanging out in overcrowded bars, having fun with her friends and getting drunk. A polar opposite of her best friend and roommate Lisa, who would rather stay at home, puzzle and dance to Koop songs than hang out in stinky, neon-lit bars, Cassie is the life of the party. However, during her birthday week, just five days shy of turning twenty-five, a very hungover Cassie loses her footing, hits her head against the toilet and dies from instant impact.
Cassie wakes up and a very sweet guardian angel, played by Robyn Scott tells her how she needs to deal with unresolved tension and issues with Lisa, her yoga-loving dad and her mom whom she hates for having abandoned her as a child. With new tasks in hand and desperate for redemption that will allow her to board the elevator to heaven, Cassie sets out to make things right.
Directed by Stephen Herek, the film had a pretty promising premise but was lacklustre in every way possible. Justice seems to have a knack for playing loud characters who are somewhat caught up in their head. Sure, she looks amazing in her sparkly silver dress and tries hard to make things right in the designated time period of five days. But as the lead, she gets overshadowed by the greatness of Scott as well as Midori Francis, who plays the calm and collected Lisa.
The film is essentially a feel-good movie. It is something one would watch on a lazy evening to just pass their time. There is nothing very substantial in the film. Sure there are moments of high-strung emotional content, especially when Cassie goes to visit her father who cries in her childhood bedroom. When he is unable to sing the song he would sing to her as a child, Cassie’s spirit chokes on her tears. Similarly, when she sees her mother in the park after ages, one can relate to the emotional turmoil that torments her.
Viewers can, however, take away from the film an important lesson of reconnecting with loved ones. As Lisa said, Cassie wanted to be seen and wanted to be the life of the party that made her lose herself in the hubbub and chatter. After her death, Cassie repents not having visited her father. However, her friendship with Lisa is enviable. Even when they are separated by mortality, they always seem to look out for one another. And when Cassie encourages Lisa to go for her dream research position as well as muster up the courage to kiss their next-door neighbour, she gains redemption.
Cassie’s purpose is fulfilled when she manages to resolve the conflict between her parents, put a smile on her father’s face and make up for all the times she hurt Lisa. together, they even finish the Mona Lisa painting that reignites the warmth and adoration they have for one another. As a gift, she even gets to ride the elevator with her beloved Koop, a very strong-jawed, wavy-haired singer, whose vocals are pushed into our ears from the very beginning of the film. They leave the elevator hand-in-hand, ready for what heaven has in store for them.
While the film has its own share of hot takes on karma, one could only wish for something more substantial and profound that would stay with them longer. With a heavy moral and ethical intonation regarding kindness, compassion and accountability as well as redemption, it does, however, feel dragged and boring after some time. Cassie’s ditzy, insipid nature is not well-developed like some iconic characters from films like Legally Blonde, Clueless, Mean Girls etc., but rather annoying after some time.
Clad in heavy shades of pink, neon, silver and sparkle, the cinematography bursts with energy which contradicts the film’s general bland aura. While the idea had potential and so did the actors, the script fails what could have been a brilliant film version of Russian Doll and leaves us with amorphous remnants of meaningless emotional scenes in-between boring and long-drawn humour.