Friday, August 4, 2017

Movie Review: "A Ghost Story" (2017)

Director: David Lowery
Year: 2017
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 32 minutes

A recently deceased man with unfinished business returns to his home as a ghost in order to reconnect with his love one final time.

"A Ghost Story" is written and directed by David Lowery, who is known for directing the films "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" and the remake of "Pete's Dragon." It stars Casey Affleck, who is simply credited as C and spends the vast majority of the movie not speaking and covered in a bed sheet. Joining him is Rooney Mara, who is simply credited as M and plays C's lover. After a short introduction to this couple, C is killed in an accident and becomes a speechless ghost complete with a Charlie Brown-style bed sheet. He returns to their mutual home and silently haunts it, mostly standing and staring as time passes. As the living move on, he remains, waiting to complete his unfinished business, like in "Casper" or "Ghost."

From beginning to end, "A Ghost Story" remains visually interesting with an eerie look about it. It is shot in the 4:3 'Academy' aspect ratio, which offers an intimate, almost home movie type of feel. There is something striking about a person in a sheet playing a ghost standing in a field or in the corner of a house or on a tall building staring at the living as they go about their grieving days while waiting frustratedly for its final solace. It helps that Affleck's character is wrapped in a well designed long bed sheet that looks to be made of a sturdy material for optimum impact. The eyeholes are also cut in such a way that gives the ghost a sad look. Essentially, "A Ghost Story" is a haunted house movie without the jump scares, the cheesy cliches, or the bloodbath, and in its stead are lingering sadness, long pauses, and pondering about how we choose to spend our time on Earth.

As nice as these visuals are, the pacing of the film can drag, even with its short run time. There is a single-shot scene in which Rooney Mara's M sits on the ground eating a pie for five minutes straight until she gets sick and throws up. This may be the most polarizing scene for BigJ and I. It was his least favorite part of the movie. He hated it and wondered if the entire thing would be filled with long shots of Mara eating other pies or doing other mundane things fueled by her sadness (especially considering it is followed by long shots of the ghost standing and staring at things). BigJ understands what director David Lowery is trying to do in this scene, he just thinks it could have been edited down with the same effect. I, on the other hand, loved this scene. Much like the frozen chicken moment in "Machester by the Sea," the impact of this scene resonated with me as I recognized it as my own grief from a sad period in my life. The futile stabbing of the pie, the forceful eating of nearly the entire thing, the frustrated and depressed faces as she shovels in forkfuls of pie, that's grief and sadness you cannot forget. It felt like the most realistic moment in the entire movie. Once Mara is out of the picture, the movie picks up and the pacing improves.

"A Ghost Story" may not be for a wide-scale audience. It's the kind of movie that's a bit of a "pretentious art for art's sake" kind of film that won't have mass appeal. Though BigJ and I were divided on our final thoughts about it, we both agree the visual storytelling is stellar. I think the way Lowery conveys emotions during loss and life beyond loss is interesting and mostly gripping, though I don't think it's as profound as others are making it out to be. Plus, it helps to have a connection to this kind of story, which we do, and it made it all the more appealing for me. BigJ found the trailer to be far more compelling than the film itself. He thought the whole was not as good as the sum of its parts and thinks it would have made a better five-minute music video for the song "I Get Overwhelmed" by Dark Rooms, which is played several times in the film. This isn't necessarily an "in theater" type of movie, but you should see it if you've ever experienced loss, or if you've ever wanted to see a haunted house movie from the ghost's point of view.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~7.8/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~90%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?

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