A funny thing happened on the way to the movies: in order to see a movie that didn’t feature anal rape, I had to go see a movie made by an anal rapist.
I have a friend who has seen every Michael Moore movie to come out in the past 15 years. But he’s never bought a ticket for one. Instead he buys a ticket for another movie, and sneaks in to see Moore’s latest propaganda. I’ve always sort of disapproved of this but, well, our choices were Brooklyn’s Finest or the French movie A Prophet. Actually, I thought about Hot Tub Time Machine, because at least there the anal sex was probably consensual.
Anyway, we ended up watching Roman Polanski’s latest. I don’t know why I do this to myself. I guess because I don’t think of Polanski as being boring, whatever his other flaws. But Ghost Writer is a big old stupid fest on top of some really stupid politics and only marginally competent old-school direction.
Nice traditional score, however, by Alexandre Desplat, who also scored the French movie we didn’t go see.
The story is that Ewan McGregor is a writer offered a juicy contract with the former prime minister Pierce Brosnan to help him finish his memoirs. The old friend who had been helping him up to that point mysteriously turned up dead through accident or suicide—but you know he was murdered.
McGregor runs into Kim Cattrall, who sports an on again off again English accent, and Olivia Williams, who bravely goes without flattering makeup and lighting so that she can appear to be a peer of Pierce Brosnan. Brosnan, meanwhile, looks like he’s done a George Clooney on his face. Also showing up are Jim Belushi and Eli Wallach, as well as Timothy Hutton.
When I confessed to the theater manager and I had bought a ticket to see Girl with a Dragon Tattoo but saw this instead, she agreed and said it was disappointing to see so many actors she liked willing to work with Polanski. It’s true: You watch and go, “Awwww…not Pierce! Not Timothy (what would his dad think?)! Not Jim! Anybody but Jim!”
I don’t need to elaborate, I’m sure, about how this movie unfolds. Obviously, McGregor is going to find out both that the previous ghostwriter found something out that got him killed and is going to find out the same thing and therefore be in jeopardy himself.
The point to this kind of movie is in how it’s executed. I was not impressed and neither was The Boy.
Both of us were sort of impressed by the sheer stupidity of McGregor’s character. He seems to grasp the level of danger early on enough and yet takes few if any steps to preserve his anonymity.
Allow me a digression here for a moment: Remember Jar Jar Binks? Everybody hated Jar Jar. Except me. Sure, he was the most grating character to be seen on stage or screen since Gilbert Gottfried did his one-man-show on Bobcat Goldthwait, but he was vitally necessary. His traveling companions were Jedi who never got excited about anything. If not for his exaggerated overreactions, you’d never know anybody was in danger.
So it is with McGregor, both in terms of his emotional state and in terms of how he reacts to danger. At one point, during a car chase, he pulls off the side of the road and waits. And nothing happens for a minute or two, so he pulls right back out on to the road and proceeds on his way. (By the way, if these guys tailing him meant to do him harm, they could’ve been a little less conspicuous.) At one point, his room gets trashed and, well, he seems a bit miffed.
And for what should be a highly paranoid movie, he ends up trusting a voice on the phone, letting an unknown thug/bodyguard pat him down for weapons, and generally doing things that would get you killed in a real thriller.
And, now that I think about it, the MacGuffin—the thing the whole movie revolves around and which the bad guys are trying to destroy—in the hands of the bad guys the whole time. They knew they wanted it. They go after McGregor for having something that looks like it. But they had access to it from scene one.
To ice this particular cinematic cake, the entire movie is thinly disguised Bush bashing. The guy has been out of office for over a year, but they can’t stop making movies about him. Brosnan is playing Tony Blair, and the movie’s premise is that Blair was a lapdog to the US. This was a popular meme on the left.
Ever wonder if that happened during World War II? “That Churchill guy! He’s always siding with Roosevelt! How come he never takes Hitler’s side?” You know, it’s so inconceivable that America and Britain could have a common interest that the only possible reason for them to agree must be that the British prime minister is under some sinister American influence.
This movie features waterboarding—which we did a total of three times, if I’m not mistaken, but which apparently we did so well, the world is outsourcing its torturing to us.
Stupid, stupid stuff.
And the ironic cherry on top of our cake is that the Prime Minister might have to flee to the US to escape prosecution for war crimes. One character notes that the US does not respect the international criminal Court’s jurisdiction putting it in the same category as North Korea and Israel.
Surely Roman could not have missed the irony of speaking with such contempt for those who flee punishment passed by legitimate courts.
It does make you wonder why he’d want to come back here, though. And really makes you wonder why anyone would agitate to allow him back.
Anyway, dumb plot, dumb politics, and only a glimmer of directorial skill to buoy up some really weak action scenes make for a rather cheap movie. One person actually clapped at the end. I looked over and said, “Really? Really?!”
We actually should have gone to see the Girl with the Dragon tattoo again.