A few years ago the rom com was almost dead, gasping for air as formulaic stories stock characters squeezed whatever romance or comedy was left in the creaking old bones of the genre.
“Life After Beth,” a zombie rom com, aims to breath some life back into the dead-on-arrival category that gave us “Because I Said So” and “Fool’s Gold.”
“Parks and Rec” star Aubrey Plaza is Beth, a teenager who passes away in the film’s opening minutes. Her passing devastates her parents (Molly Shannon, Michael C. Reilly) and boyfriend Zack (Dane DeHaan) but the mourning is short lived when Beth comes back from the dead with the idea to resume her “life.” She has no idea she’s shuffled off this mortal coil, but the new life she has with mom, dad and Zack soon starts to disintegrate. Literally.
“Life After Beth” offers up something a different and a little scary. Beth’s return from the dead works quite brilliantly as a metaphor on the strong feelings that typify teenage love. A beak up can feel like a death, or perhaps the person you’re with turns into a monster. Either way, there’s more subtext here than in all of Katherine Heigl’s movies put together.
But subtext isn’t very romantic or funny, but “Life After Beth” is both. The relationship between Zack and Beth is quite sweet and the situation is absurd, which leads to comedy, but never so absurd that the underlying emotion gets lost.
Plaza plays both sides of Beth, the sweet young girl she once was and the monster she’s turning into. It’s her performance that saves the movie from being a “Fido” or “Shawn of the Dead” clone.
Aubrey Plaza, star of the new zombie rom com Life After Beth, is a liar.
When asked if it is possible to overthink her approach to a character she says, “I’m not very smart to begin with so I can’t overthink anything. If I’m thinking about something, that’s a big deal for me.”
Liar, liar, pants on fire.
Actually, the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts graduate, best known as April Ludgate on Parks and Recreation, is a secret smarty-pants with a well thought out career path.
“Most scripts I read feel wrong to me just because they’re not good,” she says. “I tend to try and do things that are scary to me because otherwise I’ll just get offered the same thing over and over again, and who wants to see that… except for everyone.”
Life After Beth offered up something different and a little scary. Plaza says the story of Zack (Dane DeHaan) and his recently deceased girlfriend Beth (Plaza) who refuses to stay dead is a metaphor “for a break up and how when you break up with someone it’s like they die. Then you try to get back together with them and you only remember the good things. Or you turn that person into a monster. There’s all kinds of ways you can look at the movie.”
The thirty-year-old actress says, “I like make-believe which is why I like movies and like making them and making people believe that I am good at that,” adding that she always had “grand delusions” of a career in film.
“I had really weird taste when I was little,” she says. “I was really into Judy Garland and Bette Midler. I had a sophisticated gay man’s taste at an early age.”
Plaza was also obsessed with Saturday Night Live, particularly with the female cast members like Molly Shannon, Tina Fey and her current Parks and Rec co-star Amy Poehler, a person she now calls a “close friend” and the nicest and funniest person in the room. “She is like a glowing orb of light.”
Her take on Poehler is believable, but when asked about her movie’s message, she lies again.
“I want people to see zombies in a whole new light and think before they shoot them in the brains,” she says. “If the zombie apocalypse happens I want the world to remember, ‘These were humans at one point…’ No, I think they should just shoot them. Immediately.”