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With the growth of reality shows, no matter how deviated from reality they are, movies have come to embrace them as fodder for a sort of behind-the-scenes take on the real drama. With After The Reality, a play on words that hints at the overall subtly, or lack thereof, of the film itself, the message is a familiar if not comforting one that works hard to hit all the marks, even if a few don’t quite strike.
If there is anything After The Reality does well it’s the skewering of reality programs like The Bachelorette and ones like it where a single girl has to choose from a group of wildly different stereotypes, poking fun at the production and superficiality of it all with some clever and even funny moments that wisely play it seriously, or at least like how we see it on TV. These bits work best and provide some nice distractions from the core story, one that is bittersweet if not patterned to pull on all the proper strings.
Scottie (Matthew Morrison) is a contestant on a popular show where he is trying to win the heart of Kelly (Laura Bell Bundy) among a number of others. He is clearly the most grounded if not most solemn, a man with some haunts behind his eyes. On the show, he is told his father has passed away and so makes the choice to leave, to head back to the family cabin where his sister Kate (Sarah Chalke), who gave up her career and put her life on hold, has taken care of their father until the day he died. There is resentment between them, but bridges can be patched and the two sift through the past as they sort through their father’s belongings, all the while, the conclusion of the reality show he was on a lingering mystery as to whether she chose Scottie or not.
Written and directed by David Anderson, After The Reality is a carefully-structured drama built and presented on very stable legs, ones that are time-tested, even if they are painted in different colors. While the mix of reality show bits and family conflicts make for some nice twists, the branching subplots are fairly straight and narrow and lead to an unsurprising end that while layered in heavy drama, also feel, like the television show it somewhat mocks, a bit manipulative, as if the drama playing outside the program is the one more slickly-produced to garner reactions.
That said, there’s no denying some compelling moments, especially with Chalke, who has the best moments and injects the most truth to the film, trapped in a cabin of memories that she struggles to unshackle herself from, learning much about what kind of relationship she had with her father, her brother, and the man she is dating. Morrison is appropriately tormented and pulls off the numerous angsty stares he must, some he learns work best on the show he’s on and some the don’t with his sister. There is meant to be a kind of parallel of sort between what he feels for Kelly and what he’s meant to do with Kate and these moments mostly ring true, though the movie is never too confident in itself to test the deeper waters of each, all of it safely on the surface, avoiding too much emotional ache.
After The Reality is a comfortable watch, one that won’t have many surprises and plays well for an audience looking for a snug and harmless 80 or so minutes of drama, saved mostly by its performances and decidedly fun approach to the whole reality show angle.
Movie description: After The Reality is a 2017 drama about a reality star who must leave the show after a sudden tragedy forces him to return home and reconnect with this estranged sister.
Director(s): David Anderson
Actor(s): Matthew Morrison, Sarah Chalke, Jon Dore, Laura Bell Bundy