Netflix film ‘Afterlife of the Party’ explores connection through music, even beyond the grave

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(Illustration by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Netflix’s new original — if not somewhat cheesy — comedy film, “Afterlife of the Party,” refreshingly explores death and grief as it follows Cassie Garcia, a social butterfly played by “Victorious” actress Victoria Justice and her second chance at righting her wrongs. The film also explores how music creates strong connections.

Opening with a classic getting ready montage, Cassie dances around her bedroom listening to “Blush” by Spencer Sutherland, flinging tops, skirts and jackets around the room.

Cassie attends her 25th birthday party at a popular club with her best friend Lisa. “Blush” continues, the song dazzling the dance floor with a fun pop sound as the duo says it’s “their song.” The music really sets the film off on a high note for me, seeming to push the storyline forward. Sutherland plays a fictional pop star named Koop, whose original songs are enjoyable throughout the movie.

Cassie loves to party and be the center of attention, which leaves introverted Lisa in the dust. The plot quickly spirals into a fight between the pair about Cassie’s selfishness, throw insults and harsh words at one another before storming off.

As Cassie returns from her long night of partying, she stumbles through her apartment and meets her demise by slipping and hitting her head on the toilet, instantly killing her.

In an interesting take on what lies after death, Cassie is whisked away to the “in-between,” where she meets her guardian angel. The angel presents her with a series of tests she must pass within five days to determine her fate — either moving on to the “big party in the sky” or facing eternity down below.

Cassie tries to fix her mistakes by connecting with Lisa, but she first has to find a way to make Lisa see and hear her. After yelling and throwing things, Cassie slumps on Lisa’s bed and starts humming a Koop song. Their shared love of his music and the bond they had fangirling over him ends up the connection Cassie needs. Upon hearing the song, Lisa — first panicked seeing her dead friend — can now interact.

Lisa’s character development was very enjoyable. She’s quirky and cute, and as we get to know her, she learns to come out of her shell. She’s consistently loyal to her friend and goes on her own journey as Cassie helps her find the courage to apply for a promotion at her paleontology job, as well as land a date with her cute apartment neighbor, Max.

The blooming relationship between Lisa and Max was — lacking a better word — adorable. Their awkward interactions validate each other and had me giggling to myself. They also form a connection through music, their first date being a behind-the-scenes trip to a Koop music video. Sutherland sports flared jeans and a 90s-esque top as he performs “One Look.”

Sutherland’s music emerges again as Cassie and Lisa sit in their mint-green kitchen listening to “Drive,” a feel-good tune that inspires another impromptu dance party, a unique part of their friendship. The music gives them an outlet and a distraction from Cassie’s limited time back on Earth, still needing to patch relationships with her parents.

Cassie makes amends with her parents over a few tear-jerking scenes and must wrap up her time with Lisa, realizing she will not see all of her life’s accomplishments. The duo shares happy tears before bidding one another adieu.

Having completed her list, Cassie approaches the elevator that determines where she will reside for eternity. The angels grant her access above, where she meets her idol Koop, walking away together to their duet, “Home.”

Overall, it was a sweet movie with character relationships that made me smile. It featured great music that accompanied me through Cassie and Lisa’s journey. Despite a few corny moments, the story urges people to enjoy their time together. There is no restart button in real life.

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