Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Ghost Writer Draws an Interesting Audience-- Oh, and the film was pretty entertaining, too

This Sunday afternoon I had plans with a couple of friends to see the infamous Polanski's new film The Ghost Writer. It's currently out on limited release and only showing at two theaters in New York City, the Lincoln Plaza Cinema and the Regal Union Square.
While a part of me felt that purchasing a ticket for the show was somehow morally off (a portion of my $12, albeit a small portion, will end up in the wallet of a man who was until recently a fugitive from justice and avoiding punishment for a reprehensible crime he fully admits to having committed,) the film did win him this year's award for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival. And, I have to say, I absolutely loved The Pianist.

I guess what this means is, for better or worse, if you're a cinematic genius people will want to watch your work regardless of the infamy that surrounds it. Or perhaps, because of it.

Whatever their reason, there was no shortage of people interested in seeing the film today at Lincoln Plaza. My friend and I realized this the hard way when we showed up at 3 p.m. for the 3:15 showing only to find it had long sold out. The next one started at 5:50. We quickly purchased tickets, (cash-only, to make matters more sketchy...) and spent our three-hour wait between a Starbucks by Central Park and a sushi restaurant a block from the theater. 

By the time 5:30 rolled around we were satiated to the extreme and wanted nothing more than to sit the next two hours completely immobile, ingesting only the images on the silver screen.

The line to enter the theater rivaled that of your local DMV. Except we were very obviously not in any US Government apparatus. We could have been in an entirely different country, judging by the widely varied nationalities of my fellow line-mates. People chattered about the film excitedly in several different languages. Some languages were less favorable than others. For example, one couple in front of us insisted on speaking entirely in French Kiss all the way to their seats (directly in front of ours). From that highly visible vantage point they continued the conversation in earnest.

Scoring space at all was a struggle, and keeping it proved to be as difficult. My friends got up to use the restroom before the movie started, leaving me to defend our seats armed only with their purses and overcoats to place in their chairs. The theater's universal "reserved" sign... or so I thought.

Less than ten seconds had passed since my friends abandoned ship before a couple asked, "Are those seats free?"

"No, no they're not." What did these people think? That I was using the seat as a coat rack? 

Evidently so. The guy in the couple got all offended, as if he hadn't seen my answer coming, and said under his breath (but loud enough for me and probably our French Kiss speaking friends to hear) "You can't reserve seats..."  

Give me a break, I wanted to tell him. They aren't even great seats. You want great reserved seats you should talk to the little old lady sitting down the isle. She's got four empty seats covered in various clothing items. The place looks like a Fraternity house floor after a game of strip poker. She's the one you should have issues with.

But I didn't say those things. Instead, I pretended I didn't hear him and focused my attention straight ahead. So, basically, at the two faces pressed together less than a foot from my own. And I became engrossed (emphasis on the gross). They had such a unique kissing style. Neither party moved his/her face during the act. It looked like a picture taken of a couple in mid-kiss rather than a couple actually in mid-kiss, if you want to know the truth. It was fascinating. And a little uncomfortable. Just looking at them I could feel the drool.

I was glad when my friends returned and we could whisper-giggle about the experience middle school style until the film began and everyone, even the couple, sat up and paid attention.

I won't go into too much detail about the plot for those of you who plan on seeing it, but here's a general synopsis. It's a thriller about a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) hired to finish former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Peirce Brosnan)'s memoirs after his previous ghost writer dies under ambiguous circumstances (accident? suicide?)

Upon accepting the lucrative assignment, The Ghost, whose name we never know [Adam simply calls him "Man." Adam's wife Ruth (Olivia Williams) tells him that's what her husband calls people when he can't remember their names] is mugged outside of his apartment. He ignores this omen completely (the job's paying $250,000 for a month's work) and heads to the airport for his expense-paid flight to the U.S. There, while The Ghost enjoys a preflight drink at the airport bar, we learn from the news that Adam's been involved in a high profile political scandal. 

Did this have anything to do with The Ghost's predecessor's death? Or with the mugging? Just who were those faceless guys in black on the sexy moped? 

Enter two very beautiful women: Adam's wife, Ruth, a white-wine chugging political activist and, truth be told, the brains behind Adam's brawn; and Adam's assistant Amelia (Kim Cattrall) who allows herself a single cigarette in times of great distress or great contentment, doesn't wear her wedding ring because "it's too big... it sets off all the metal detectors," and seems just a bit too close to her employer. 

It's safe to say that with this cast we've got quite the party.

In all seriousness though, I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. This film will surprise you. It will make you laugh out loud and then sit up straight, immobile in suspense. It's highly entertaining, and nearly as interesting as the audience it draws. 

However, I'd say it falls short in shock-factor by comparison to the background of its director. And, all things considered, that's probably a good thing.

Question of utmost important on the poll to the right of the screen: Think Polanski's arrest at the Zurich Film Festival while attending to accept his A Tribute To... Award for his life's work as a director was in bad taste? Or was it about damn time? Cast your vote on the right.

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