Recently laid-off librarian Jane (Marcia Gay Harden) heads to Costa Rica in a desperate bid to add some much-needed excitement to her life in “After Words.” “Where’s the beauty in a wasted life?,” Jane asks in a new trailer for the romantic drama. Her former coworker glibly — though quite accurately — observes that Jane is turning “desperation into a tropical vacation.”
Jane meets Juan (Oscar Jaenada), a charming tour guide, and what begins as a friendship heads into more touchy-feely territory. She undergoes a “makeover,” swapping her drab, fog-colored clothes and frizzy hair for more eye-catching attire and a flattering haircut. The makeover trope can be — and often is — problematic, conflating a more conventionally attractive you with a better you. But in this case, Jane seems to be undergoing a profound transformation inside and out. She doesn’t want to hide in the background anymore, and her new aesthetic reflects this desire to be seen and noticed. (Though it stinks that Juan seems to look at Jane only in a platonic light up until she changes her look.)
The spot suggests that Jane’s romance helps prevent her from being bogged down by her cynicism and pondering “what’s the point?” Instead, she channels her energy into enjoying the luscious landscape — and her luscious new lover. The surprising conclusion of the trailer, however, indicates that all is not as it seems.
Needless to say, it’s great to see the 55-year-old Harden, an Oscar-winning actress (“Pollock”) usually stuck in far too many forgettable roles, get a starring vehicle of her own.
“After Words” opens August 21.