[Screen It]


(2019) (Josephine Langford, Hero Fiennes Tiffin) (PG-13)

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Drama: A virginal college freshman finds herself falling for a too-cool-for-school, bad-boy classmate.
Tessa Young (JOSEPHINE LANGFORD) is entering her freshman year at the University of Atlanta where she's dropped off by her mom, Carol (SELMA BLAIR), and boyfriend, Noah (DYLAN ARNOLD), who's still in high school. Carol is worried that Tessa's roommate, Steph (KHADIJHA RED THUNDER), is going to be a bad influence on her, but Tessa reassures her that all will be okay. And that seems true after finding bad boy Hardin Scott (HERO FIENNES TIFFIN) nonchalantly hanging out in her room when she returns from the shower, and then later at a party where she declines to play truth or dare with him.

Her distaste for him increases when they debate "Pride and Prejudice" in their English lit class, but he proposes that they start anew and takes her off to his favorite place, a picturesque lake deep in the woods. Agreeing to swim in that with him, romantic sparks fly, and while that doesn't go too far, the hook has already been set in her heart.

None of which sits well with another classmate, Molly Samuels (INANNA SARKIS), who may or may not have some sort of relationship with Hardin, while Tessa's fellow freshman and new friend Landon (SHANE PAUL MCGHIE) says that things are complicated with Hardin who's set to become his stepbrother, what with his mom about to marry Hardin's dad, Ken Scott (PETER GALLAGHER), who just so happens to be the school's chancellor.

As their relationship progresses and her mom gives her an ultimatum about calling that off, Tessa finds herself falling deeper and deeper in love with Hardin, unaware of a secret he's been harboring and that's surely going to be exposed at some point.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
Our reviewing policy for films that aren't shown in advance to critics is that we'll only provide a paragraph or two about the film's artistic merits or, more accurately, lack thereof. After all, life is too short to spend any more effort than that on a movie that even the releasing studio knows isn't any good (which is why they hid it from reviewers before its release).

Anytime you reference a classic of most any movie genre in a new work, you better darn well better be able to match that in quality, lest those pesky comparisons start taking place in viewers' minds. And when the back-story of how a movie came to be ends up being more interesting than the finished product, that isn't going to help matters.

Both end up bedeviling the older teen romantic drama, "After" that's based on a story that writer Anna Todd posted on the social community website Wattpad. In that, she created a tale of a college freshman ending up in a love affair with none other than One Direction's Harry Styles as the don't tell momma he's a bad boy type. I never read any of that, but it led to Todd publishing a novel about the same and then Paramount swooping in to obtain the movie rights (albeit with Styles replaced by a fictional fella).

But that deal fell apart, the rights were released, and we now have this offering that might appease some tween and younger teen girls, but likely no one else. Slow and fairly uneventful thanks to its predictable nature, it makes the mistake of having its two college lovebirds (played by Josephine Langford and Hero Fiennes Tiffin) doing the standard storyline thing of initially clashing (including debating none other than "Pride and Prejudice" at one point) and then falling for each other before experiencing the obligatory third act falling out.

The only thing that got me hot and bothered watching the film was the theater's inexplicable temperature setting of something barely short of sweltering. Granted, I'm not anywhere in the same zip code as the film's target audience, but even they might have a temperature reaction to the flick, albeit one of the cold shoulder variety. "After" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed April 11, 2019 / Posted April 12, 2019

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