The Ghost Writer

Sunday, February 28, 2010 5:42 PM By Simon , In , , , , ,

Dear Ghost Writer:
I apoligise. From the bottom of my heart, I take back all my reservatiosn regarding your awesomeness. I apoligise for not seeing past the badly-Photoshopped poster, the Kim Cattrall factor, the Roman Polanksi controversy that all made be hesitent to give you the price of a ticket at my local arthouse/old person theatre. I'm sorry for forgetting my excitement all through your production, my glowering anticipation that peaked during my Ewan McGregor phase. I'm very, very sorry.

Well, alright then. Where to begin?

I went with my sister and my Guardian to see this lovely movie the other day. It was a settlement, really, because neither she nor she wanted to see Broken Embraces or The White Ribbon, both of which I've been trying for since last month. The Ghost Writer was my third choice, and I'm very glad I saw it.

Based off the book The Ghost by Robert Harris, 'tis the story of a successful (ahem) British ghost writer, who is never named--though you probably won't notice this until the end credits, where Ewan McGregor is credited simply as "The Ghost"--is hired to finish the memoirs of disgraced former Prime Minister Adam Lang. While his agent assures him it's the his best deal, McGregor feels a sort of foreboding, for reasons not excluding his predecessor's mysterious death by drowning.

First off, accents. I cannot go any farther with this review without saying something about the dreaded accents. Now, Ewan McGregor is not exactly renowned for his mastery of foreign accents (see: The Men Who Stare At Goats), but seriously, dude...you're Scottish. England is so fucking close to where you're from. Otherwise, you're a beacon of straightman-in-the-dark, a fantastic case of curiosity-killed-the-cat, doomed-from-the-start, what-the-fuck-is-going-on act-ing, you are just so good here--but, J fucking C, you can't hire a goddamn vocal coach? Or even take a lunch with Olivia Williams? Seriously, for that one episode of Firefly, Summer Glau went on one lunch with the guy who played Badger and came back with a dead-fucking-on Cockney accent...

And. Kim Cattral. I don't like you, lady. It's not fair, but I don't. And you have no excuse...you are English. You are from Liverpool. Yes, you moved to Canada or something when you were a baby, and you've spent much of your life in America, but you can't take a note from your parents? You have the shittiest accent ever, lady. Otherwise, I do appreciate your taking on a role of more introverted sexuality than your usual drag-queen-slut, Sex and the City stuff. As the assistant/lightly-implied mistress of Adam Lang, you exceed my expectations. Good for you.

Okay. Now. More cast.

Pierce Brosnan is good, maybe great, as the cocky, douchebag former Prime Minister, a man so used to getting what he wants he's prone to childish temper tantrums and a signature slimy smile. He, in his unspoken-influence by Tony Blair, makes you think about howhe ever got to be an elected official of anything (these suspicions, don't worry, work themselves out in a very clever way).

And Olivia Williams...what to say? I have liked you, been very fond of you, since Rushmore. This fondness grew in the duration of Dollhouse (RIP), but now, it's full-blown love. I love this lady. Here, she has such a tired, exasperated demeanor as the wary wife of Adam Lang. She takes everything you say with a pinch of salt. As my sister so eloquently put it: She has a "Oh, God, are you talking again? Didn't you do that yesterday?" feel to her. As if everyone she is talking to is absolutely ridiculous, which they are.

Overall...a solid political thriller. No sooner is McGregor assigned to the book is Lang slapped with charges of unlawful kidnapping of suspected terrorists and sending them to the CIA for torture, a war crime. As he digs deeper into the trail of clues left my the prior ghostwriter, he puts himself into increasing danger, blahblahblah. A certain...something hangs over the movie. Not quite a danger, not quite a mischief, not quite claustrophobia (though it's there...much of the movie takes place on the coastal US island Lang and co. have exiled themselves to). More like...a gnawing feeling that all of this is just a small part of the bigger picture...which it is, but time will tell. The score adds to this feeling of both danger and unimportance...oh, jeez, how to describe it...

I give up. The character of The Ghost, I must say, is very subtly an actual Ghost. No, the movie has not hightailed it into The Sixth Sense territory--but it's not just the name. Early on, he mentions he has no family. His only connection to outside life is his literary agent and an unnamed, unseen not-quite-girlfriend, not-quite-partner mentioned in relative passing. Whenever his name or past is brought to subject, it's subtly shrugged away, so that you don't even notice. As played by McGregor, he's absolutely unnotable. Had I seen him on the street--well, I would look twice, because I'd be seeing Ewan McGregor, but in the movie universe--you wouldn't look twice at him. He always introduces himself as the Ghost or the ghostwriter, not out of obscurity, but because anyone bothering to ask his name would only be interested in what his business was. And, sometimes, especially at the end, he can be so...fucking...baffalingly stupid. Just, that one action is so incomprehendable. "What the fuck is he doing that for!?!" is my head screaing.

Okay, what else...Timothy Hutton is in this, which was a nice little surprise.

Polanksi has not lost his touch for good storytelling. He has created a tightly plotted, engaging, keep-the-fucks-on-their-toes satire/thriller, smart and sometimes dryly funny, with a genuinely surprising turn-out, and a haunting final scene. Go see it.

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