Tuesday, August 29, 2017

And I've never felt that way before.

A Brief Reaction to "A Ghost Story"


When I went to see David Lowery's "A Ghost Story," mere hours before it would disappear from the one projector in East Tennessee that had it, I sat in front of an older married couple, who I'm pretty sure were drunk and thought they were there to see an actual "ghost story," like a thriller or something. I don't know...they talked through the whole thing. It was maddening.

Yet, that incident speaks volumes about the utterly unique power of the film. People won't know how to react to it, if they aren't willing to let themselves feel its oddities, and, more importantly, its discomforts.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara play a married couple living a quiet life in a modest rural home. Time passes in various ways as time does, sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly. Lowery's camera paces that out. It doesn't move much. We are never really sure when the next cut is coming. Their relationship plays out in silences. They talk about maybe moving, perhaps the wife (the characters aren't named) wants to be closer to town. The husband doesn't. He loves that house and all of its quirks, particularly its sounds. And its a love that they've made together. They hold each other in the early morning hours. Then he dies suddenly. She is alone. He comes back as a white-sheeted ghost. She can't see him. And, yes, she grief eats an entire pie while we watch. And she has to move on. And he can't.

What follows is a journey into the realms of the afterlife that is as haunting as the title suggests and as emotionally effective as any movie I've ever seen. This in spite of the fact that it is so simple. That it telegraphs its twist so obviously early on and even goes so far as to have an insufferable, drunken, bearded hipster pontificate about the very nature of director Lowery's own philosophy, this in a party scene at the film's very center.

In its final, and most successful act, the film somehow manages to take everything it has us betting on, everything we thought we knew and thought we were seeing and then raise. I won't spoil it. But the passage of time gets even deeper than it had already, that we thought possible. And it does this not by holding still but by moving. The small moments of the first act move as a snail's pace, still images framed in that academy ratio, a box with rounded edges (a brilliant stylistic choice). The larger moments, the mind-blowers of the third act come with quicker edits.

And then there's that song and how it blends with the rest of Daniel Hart's brilliant score. And there it is again. And that one time again. And I'm in tears. And I'm not mad at the loud talker. And I love the way I feel. And I've never felt that way before.


10 comments:

  1. I can't imagine how drunk people would handle this movie. Particularly the pie eating scene. I hate when people talk through movies.

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    1. These idiots were just in the wrong movie. The art house place in Knoxville where this played is notorious for older audiences who don't seem to know how to go to movies. Ugh!

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  2. I was shocked by how much I ended up liking this. It really is something very different and very special. I didn't fully love it - I needed more time with Affleck and Mara at the beginning in order to fully connect, I think - but I was moved by its vision of the afterlife and its depiction of grief, and very much related to the ghost's plight of wanting to be remembered, to have left a mark somewhere. So while I didn't love it as much as you, I can see very easily how someone would have your reaction, and am so happy you did.

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    1. The first act and how Mara just sort of disappeared at its end jarred the fuck out of me. I thought I didn't like it, but I loved where it went instead more than I could've imagined. I had connected enough. By the end of this thing, I was so moved that loud idiot in my screening could've been yelling in my ear, and I wouldn't have minded.

      Totally moving depiction of grief from the deceased's perspective. I loved it! My favorite of the year so far.

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  3. I'd be pissed off if there was a drunk couple in front of me.

    I loved this film a lot. It made me more emotional than I thought it would. Also, I Get Overwhelmed deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song.

    My mother, who I saw the film with, didn't like it as much. She did like it overall, but she HATED the pie scene. About 6 minutes into the scene, she said, "FINISH THE FUCKING PIE ALREADY!" I didn't mind that scene at all. I loved all 8 1/2 minutes of Rooney Mara eating a gluten-free chocolate cream pie.

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    1. They were a row behind me actually, but in a very small room at my local art house place.

      That song is 100% the shit! Just magical how they weaved it into the fabric of the film.

      Your Mom sounds like a no nonsense lady like my Mom. Love it! And I would watch Rooney Mara eat a pie any day. God! How I love her!

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    2. Oh! I do see that now. I definitely did misread that.

      It definitely is the shit.

      She is somewhat of a no-nonsense lady. She likes a lot of films that are outside the norm of cinema. She just wasn't into this one as the others. To be perfectly fair, she did like The Lobster, which we can all agree is far more outside the norm of cinema than this film was.

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    3. And I agree with you. I'd watch Rooney Mara eat a pie any day as well.

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  4. Haven't seen this one yet, but hope to pretty soon. Sorry about your company in the theater.

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    1. Haha! As it turns out, the movie worked perfectly anyway. It actually added some value to the movie as proof that it is a unique movie experience that people who never go to movies (I'm assuming...) clearly can't handle.

      Hope you get to it soon. Would love to hear your thoughts.

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