Cognition & Reality

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Polanski Mails One In

Filed under: Film — drtone @ 9:15 am

A couple of years ago, while Roman Polanski was fighting the efforts of the Swiss to send him back to the US for trial, he was also finishing a supposed thriller entitled “The Ghost Writer.” In spite of having received some excellent reviews when it was released about a year ago, this movie has an amazing dumbnitude. Although I recall wanting to see it when it came out, I watched it without knowing that it was a Polanski film. Having received it from Netflix, I put it into the machine, and watched it in its entirety, asking myself every five minutes or so why I didn’t turn it off, convinced that it had been cobbled together by a committee of know-nothing twenty-and thirty-somethings whose only value is slickness. When the credits rolled at the end announcing that it was directed by Polanski, I was therefore shocked, especially when I found that Polanski co-wrote the screenplay with the author of the book on which it is based.

To my mind, “The Ghost Writer” does not deserve an actual review, and I will not go into all the mindless twists it contains, nor the coincidences it involves that seem less like artful fictions and more like writing conveniences. Let’s just say that, for a “thriller,” it drags on from the first, introduces characters purely because famous actors agreed to play cameos, puts jarring grammatical mistakes in the mouths of characters who would not make such mistakes, and revolves around a “mystery” that is neither mysterious nor interesting. Sympathetic though I am with the political points it tries to score regarding the lawlesssness of the Bush Administration, the effort to make those points seems forced. As has been required of action-oriented movies for some time, “The Ghost Writer” includes the product placement of a high-priced vehicle, and spends an inordinate amount of time focusing on the features of that car, a BMW SUV. The women in the movie are strangely miscast: because Olivia Williams, in her early 40s, plays a woman who, to satisfy the plot, must be in at least her mid-50, they give her a streak of white hair, which has the effect of making her seem younger, not older; meanwhile Kim Cattrall, who is in her mid-50s (but still has a first-rate ass, as one particular shot illustrates), plays a woman in her mid-30s. There’s a sex scene for which the word “obligatory” seems inadequate because it is so unnecessary, and is preceded by so little sexual chemistry. Ewan McGregor, the hero, appears to float  in outer space during every scene. Not that I’m a fan of horror movies or anything, but I would have expected Roman Polanski to make far better use of the obvious pun in the movie’s title. I could go on. I only hope that this clunker isn’t Polanski’s swan song.

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