Hulu’s ‘Darby and the Dead’ focuses on Darby Harper, who gains the ability to see dead people after a near-death experience as a child. Now in high school, she helps perished souls fulfill unfinished businesses on Earth so they can pass into the afterlife. However, things get complicated when Capri Donahue, a girl Darby despises, passes away, and turns to her for help.
Darby begins by explaining how an accident at the beach took her mom’s life and nearly killed her when she was a little girl. She was dead for a while but was resuscitated. Unfortunately, her mom wasn’t so lucky.
Since that day, her life changed as she gained the ability to see dead people. In high school, Darby has no friends and loves to function alone. Furthermore, she works part-time as a helper for the deceased.
She assists them in carrying out unfinished business so they can finally move on into the afterlife. Darby breaks the fourth wall constantly in the film and further explains her life.
Her closest friend is a dead guy named Gary, who used to be the school groundskeeper. He is waiting for his wife to die in hopes of moving on together. Ironically, Darby never saw her mom after her death and doesn’t like to talk about her.
Soon after, the school’s most popular girl, Capri Donahue, dies in a freak electrocution accident and turns to Darby for help. The girls used to be friends as kids but grew up despising each other.
Now, Darby must make sure that her frenemy gets to experience a massive party in her celebration so she can pass on.
Do the two work through their differences? Does Darby finally accept and talk about her mom’s death?
Riele Downs and Auliʻi Cravalho lead the film as Darby Harper and Capri Donahue respectively. Their bitter-sweet relationship is the best thing about this highly ordinary narrative.
They give strong performances and play off of each other quite well. Downs shines at the high school recluse, who constantly judges her peers until the situation forces her to become them. Her transformation from a loner to a socialite is quite believable, to say the least.
Cravalho is brilliant as the savage and pretentious Queen Bee. The film also gives her enough opportunity to showcase her empathetic side as she comes to terms with her death and grows out of that mean persona.
The characters’ internal struggles resonate with the audience and don’t feel superficial.
Alongside the dynamic between the leads, Darby and the Dead has an interesting plot to work with. The film uses Darby’s abilities to talk about death and its aftermath in a light-hearted manner.
We see how social media and validation can make a mockery out of something as sensitive as death. Furthermore, the plot sheds light on how coping can be a struggle, even for someone who deals with souls almost every day.
The predictability of the narrative and a faulty execution work against Darby and the Dead. As soon as Capri starts helping Darby become popular, the film turns into a blend of numerous teenage comedies.
The rise to fame, jealousy, and romantic misunderstandings, among other themes, feel outdated. Blending these tropes with a setting where one protagonist is a ghost doesn’t change the fact that they’re overused.
The writers throw in a lot toward the end of the film. From Darby’s mom showing up out of the blue to Alex being able to see dead people as well, it all feels very forced and convoluted.
Furthermore, the film also rushes to resolve years of grief within Darby. With her mom’s spirit appearing, she seems to suddenly move on, and accept her absence. It only makes you wonder where she had been all these years.
Lastly, the fourth wall break is massively overused. It is fun for a little while but starts to become a distraction as the film goes on.
The film has a great premise that it fails to deliver on. It has some tender moments and talks about sensitive topics relating to death. However, the predictable story and confusing plot holes will leave you underwhelmed.
Darby and the Dead
Director: Silas Howard
Date Created: 2022-12-03 12:07