• A24
The zom-rom-com genre groans and lurches on with Life After Beth, the directorial debut from Jeff Baena, who co-wrote David O. Russell's loopy I Heart Huckabees.

Twenty-one-year-old Zach (Dane DeHaan, Place Beyond the Pines) is still feeling the sting of his breakup with Beth (Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation, Safety Not Guaranteed) when she suffers a snake bite and dies. There are so many things they never did, so many things he never said. So, he mopes around in her woolly scarf and hangs out with her chill parents, Geenie (Molly Shannon) and Maury (John C. Reilly). The only thing that could snap him out of this funk is Beth, and then she reappears! She looks and acts the same—at first—so Maury discourages any talk of death, and the romance picks up where it left off before the split, which Beth doesn't remember (she doesn't remember much). As the days pass, though, she starts to become rude, angry, and sexually insatiable. The only thing that can calm her down: smooth jazz.

If any of this sounds funny: it isn't. In fact, it's pretty sad, and if you look at it that way, the movie works. Otherwise, it doesn't, especially once other dead people from this upper-class So-Cal suburb come back to life and everybody gets screechy. Even Anna Kendrick, who's usually such good value, overplays her hand as the anti-Beth. It's too bad, since the film features deft comic performers like Plaza, who plays second fiddle to wispy DeHaan (Maggie Carey's under-seen sex comedy The To Do List represents a better use of her droll, deadpan talents). But music supervisor Bruce Gilbert (not the guy from Wire) gets an A+ for peak-era tracks from Can and Brian Eno. Apparently, zombies prefer Chuck Mangione.

Life After Beth opens today—find Movie Times here.