Welcome to 2019, where the teenagers now get their very own bland version of 'Fifty Shades', which is somehow even more painful and boring. Wattpad, a site for fan-fictions, has now expanded. After the success of Netflix's 'The Kissing Booth', Wattpad now has Wattpad Studios (their logo appearing on the screen was hands down the biggest laugh of the film from the audience), and their debut into the theatrical feature film foray is the adaptation of Anna Todd's 'After'.
When 'After' originally debuted on the site, it was actually about Harry Styles - but of course when published as a "real" book, names had to be changed. So the name they went with was... Hardin Scott. Hardin (more like hard-on - am I right, ladies?) is a "bad boy"; he has tattoos and wears black, he is mysterious but he also likes books, and he'll treat you right.
Our protagonist Anastasia Steel - sorry, I mean Tessa Young - is a freshman in college. She's a good girl, quiet, and she likes... books, which of course means she is so different and no one can understand her. That is, of course, until she runs into Hardin. At first the two don't connect due to their different opinions on 'The Great Gatsby' and 'Pride and Prejudice', but of course once they get to know each other things get steamy.
This film is wildly unsexy. It's incredibly tame and even the big sex scene is so boring - I mean, they copied that straight outta 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - but part of its flaw is the actors; they are awful. Tessa is played by Josephine Langford (Katherine Langford's sister, and she does look just like her with a mix of 'Riverdale's' Lili Reinhart). She's the type of actor who, given a better movie, would be quite good (sounds like that other film), but here is just bland and boring. Tessa is quite literally a cardboard cutout that teenage girls can put themselves in. But she isn't as bad as Hardin, portrayed by Hero Fiennes - the king of bland. He's meant to be this sexy, desirable bad boy, but he just looks so bored and uninterested. At least with Christian Grey you look at him and go, "I can see why women are interested" - but here, nope, he's just another face in the crowd.
'After' also ropes in poor Selma Blair as Tessa's mum, and she of course is the best actor in the movie - but man, she has absolutely nothing to do. I wish she just stayed away from this one; justice for Queen Blair.
Plot-wise, the film is just a generic mess. It isn't batshit insane enough to be dumb fun, nor is it good. You get your normal generic tropes, like Tessa's boyfriend who's a good guy and all but he isn't a bad boy, the mean girl who wants to ruin their relationship, the dorm roomie bad influence... the list goes on and on. Nothing happens, so there's no reason that this movie is this long. The only kind of dumb fun is the big third act twist, which was just wow, but I guess that's the point of this story. The audience I saw it with seemed to big fans of the original story but got nothing out of it, and they were dead quite for most the film.
'After' is this weird blend of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' meets 'Riverdale' but never gets to the dumb fun both those are, nor does it have the sex appeal of those properties.
While the film is a little problematic, the book is even more so with Hardin a lot more abusive, yet here he is extremely tame. The most problematic element is the film's tagline: "After your first, life is never the same." Which implies that Tessa's life changes after she looses her virginity, which in the film doesn't happen till late in the second act. Since the film is heavily targeted to that 14- to 16-year-old teenage girl demographic, it makes this a very bad message to send.
'After' is this weird blend of 'Fifty Shades of Grey' meets 'Riverdale' but never gets to the dumb fun both those are, nor does it have the sex appeal of those properties (there is a reason he is facing away from the camera on the poster). 'After' does not belong in cinemas nationwide; it's even below Netflix's standards. It's more of a YouTube original, or even just something to release on the Wattpad site for free. Still, the book's sequels have been slated for production, so it looks like we'll be suffering once again in 2020.