A Ghost Story

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I’ve got a challenge for everyone out there. Well, not everyone. It’s for the people that claim I never like any movies; for the people that say, “How come it’s getting 90% good ratings on Rotten Tomatoes but you didn’t like it?”

Go see this movie. Rush out this weekend, and see it. Then come back with your tail between your legs and say, “You were right, Josh. I’ll never doubt you again.”

Because folks, this is the type of movie idiotic critics are going to praise. They’ll talk about the minimalism of it all. They’ll talk about the profound nature of the piece. They’ll be musings about death and grieving. Yet in actuality, they’ll be no different than the dopey character we see in this movie that, at a party and after a few craft beers, waxes poetic on life, god, and the writing of others. The ghost during that scene gets so upset by this blowhard, he makes a light flicker. You’ll just wish you had a sheet over your head that kept you from watching this garbage.

Writer/director David Lowery (Pete’s Dragon), who did Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, reunites Rooney Mara (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) and Casey Affleck, as a married couple living in a modest house. We know very little about either of them. They don’t talk much, but seem to be on the verge of a big fight on whether or not they should move. It becomes a moot point soon enough, because Affleck dies in a car accident. His ghost leaves the morgue and walks home. He, and the audience, must sit there and watch as Mara does nothing that interesting. It reminded me of a parody Saturday Night Live did when Ghost was a huge hit, and Swayze just sits around watching his girlfriend pick her nose, fart, and an assorted list of unattractive things. In this, the most exciting thing we get to watch is her eating a pie somebody brought over. Guess what? They show you the entire pie being consumed. Some reports say the scene lasted nine minutes, others say it was five minutes. But think about that for a second. You’re sitting in a theatre, watching a movie. Over five minutes is devoted to quietly watching a woman eat a pie.

Here’s the thing. I hate to admit I liked Ghost and one of my favorite movies is Heaven Can Wait (Warren Beatty version). There are lots of things you can do with ghosts, and the concept behind this was decent. It’s the ghost’s POV. As goofy as it looked having a white sheet with eye holes, it created a mournful vibe. Had it just been Affleck standing there, it would’ve been a bit more distracting just watching him quietly observe the life of his widow (although he pulled off the mourning beautifully in Manchester by the Sea).

The problem is that once we realize the ghost won’t be interacting, and not much of interest is happening, it gets repetitive. And the pacing is so slow. It’s weird, because once different people move into the house, you hope that might bring some interest to the proceedings. Yet a family speaking all Spanish (with no subtitles), doesn’t really go anywhere. When a bunch of people party in the house, it goes nowhere. We occasionally get the ghost trying to get a scrap of paper out of the wall, because it has a message his wife wrote on it. In one scene that had the audience laugh at it’s ridiculousness…we see another ghost in a house next door. That time, they gave us subtitles. Yet if they’re trying to say that somebody dies and stays in that spot, despite their family moving out…why are we not seeing ghosts all over the place. Instead of him looking out the window and seeing the ghost next door, shouldn’t there be other ghosts we see standing on the street?

You don’t get emotionally engaged in these characters because they’re not fleshed out (no pun intended) and neither is the premise. Once we realize the story isn’t just jumping years into the future, but decades, and centuries…that’s interesting, for about a second; until the time wraps around, and brings a bit of interest with cowboys and indians, but also a whole lot of flaws as well (I can’t tell you without ruining things).

Unfortunately, the few striking images are ruined by a poorly conceived picture. Lowrey might want to stop watching Terrence Malick films.

Two hours of Casey Affleck with a white sheet over his head. Yikes. Well, assuming he’s not using a stand-in.

Casey the Friendly Ghost gets 1 star out of 5.