Herm… usually I’m a little more open to an artsy-fartsy movie, and I’m open to a movie with Rooney Mara, but… very recently, I saw an artsy-fartsy movie with Mara called SONG TO SONG (2017) and that downright broke my brain. The notion of another one? Merr…
Well, to be fair, this does look like it’s got something to say and might be worth hearing. It looks like it’s a story about a woman who loses her… husband? Boyfriend? I don’t know, but a ghost, presumably his, clad in white bed sheet with cut-out eye holes a la Charlie Brown and the Great Pumpkin style and starts following her around. This movie is either going to be deep as hell, or it’s going to be beyond silly. I’m on the fence as to whether this will be good or not. Hell, it might just be boring.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Rooney Mara (LION , CAROL , and THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO ), Casey Affleck (MANCHESTER BY THE SEA , INTERSTELLAR , and GONE BABY GONE ), and Ke$ha (JEM AND THE HOLOGRAMS ).
Now for the crew. Writing and directing is David Lowery, known for PETE’S DRAGON (2016) and the upcoming Disney live-action remake PETER PAN (2018). Composing the score is Daniel Hart, known for PETE’S DRAGON and TV show THE EXORCIST. Finally, the cinematographer is Andrew Droz Palermo, known for documentaries and short films.
Overall, not super excited or anything, but I do have a passing interest to see if the reviews are worth listening to.
This is my honest opinion of: A GHOST STORY
The story follows a loving couple, simply named referred to as M (Rooney Mara), and C (Casey Affleck). Unfortunately, C tragically dies in a car collision, but returns as a bed-sheet wearing ghost that can’t be seen. He returns to his home and watches M run through her grief and eventually moves on. C stays at his home over the course of countless years as different occupants take up his house.
Nope, couldn’t get into this one. It’s boring, pretentious, and… rather unpleasant. This movie is getting some solid critical buzz, but I wholly disagree.
The pretentious thing rears its ugly head really early on. C and M are snuggled up on a couch and they start talking about… who cares, and somehow, she starts talking about how in her old home, she used to write little messages on some paper and hid them in the walls, so there’s a little piece of her still there and to remind her of a memory or some shit. You see the issue here? Who does this?! For a movie that’s supposed be “lovely, mysterious, and cosmic” this is a pretty out there thing for someone to do. But more than just the weird motivations and character logic, the first quarter of this movie has a fetish for needlessly long takes of something that rivals J.J. Abrams’ fetish for lens flares. Literally, there’s a solid forty seconds of just watching Mara and Affleck in bed, sleeping. There’s another one stretch of maybe two minutes that feels like ten of Mara just eating pie. I shit you not. She’s on the floor, eating pie, for two minutes. Nothing else. It’s really freakin’ awkward. I get it, it’s supposed to be that grieving silence and possibly stress-eating. The woman is dealing with her boyfriend’s death. Of course this would send anyone spiraling into a depressive state. But to be this hyper-realistic about it? Instead of feeling sorry for M, all I could think about was, “I really want a McDonalds cherry pie right now.”
And once Affleck becomes a ghost, it’s not much of an improvement. As I feared, the Charlie Brown bedsheet ghost is way too silly and distracting. Whatever “heightened awareness” this movie was trying to get across died in stillbirth when all I could think about is, “I got a rock.” I won’t write off everything though. As silly as this ghost looks, I give credit that the emotions surprisingly shine through. The slow movements and subtle turns of the head, the framing and lighting, it’s surprisingly effective in knowing just how the ghost feels when it’s sad to see M leave, or when it’s angry when a new family moves in. And I do admire how we never see flesh ever again while Affleck is in the sheet. You don’t see blinking eyes in the eye holes, you don’t see a hand or a foot ever against from it. It’s completely draped in the blanket and all of its interactions with everything around it are through the blanket. It’s a nice little detail to be sure. But this appreciation is only in short bursts because, remember this movie’s fetish for long takes of mundane shit? Yeah, the ghost is creepy as all hell when it’s just staring at something. In some shots, the emotions come through fine, but when they’re not, it’s borderline stalkery.
There’s even a little unintentional hilarity. Like, the ghost looks out his window and sees another bedsheet ghost and we’re made privy to how they talk… via generic hand gestures with subtitles. They will literally raise a hand in a “hi” gesture, and the movie couldn’t resist giving a subtitle to it. We obviously know what a hand wave means! The funny thing is, the rest of their “communication,” if you can call it that, is them standing still staring at each other with subtitles across the screen as if their conversation is so thrilling and deep.
But the worst part of this movie is toward the final forty to thirty minutes. There’s a character that goes on this long-ass depressing tangent about how no matter how hard someone may try to preserve their legacy, no matter how far the legacy reaches into the vastness of space, it will all be for nothing because eventually the universe will implode on itself, making their efforts mean absolutely nothing in grand scheme of the cosmos. Fine, call me a closet optimist, but I deal with my own level of depression and I really didn’t need this movie to feed into that bullshit. Oh, I’m sure that ending is supposed to be symbolic of being content with being forgotten, but fuck this movie for giving me that sense of dread with no emotional reassurance. Make a movie all you want to showcase the “enormity of time” but leave the dark and fear-of-life-inducing speeches in your own psyche, please.
Overall, if you got something artistic and beautiful from this, good on you, but this movie made me want to curl up in bed and shiver out of petrified horror. Already, I have an agonizing fear toward death, but I wasn’t expecting this movie to dive into such a dark and depressing angle. Maybe I missed the point entirely. I might believe that, to be honest. But then that proves that this movie is tailored for a specific mindset and I guess I just didn’t have that. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of artsy-fartsy films, I’d say you’re not missing anything. Even if you got the poetry it was trying to get across, it doesn’t change the awkward long takes, the head-bashing boredom, and silliness of the ghost itself.
My honest rating for A GHOST STORY: 1/5