Ghost Writer, The (2010)

Rated: PG-13 for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference.
Length: 128
Grade: BCDC=C+
Budget: $45 million
Box Office: $60 million (16 U.S., 41 Intl., 3 DVD)

Written by: Robert Harris (Wrote the novel “The Ghost”)
Directed by: Roman Polanski (Frantic, Ninth Gate, Chinatown, rosemary’s Baby)
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Olivia Williams, and Pierce Brosnan
With: James Belushi, Timothy Hutton, Kim Cattrall, Tom Wilkinson, and Robert Pugh

After the mysterious death of the previous ghost writer, a new writer is brought in to complete the memoirs of a widely loved and widely hated former British Prime Minister. As he begins, evidence of some sort of conspiracy cause him to solve the puzzle and bring the truth to light.

Entertainment Value: B
All the way through, this felt like a Polanski film: stylized rather than realistic, and stilted characters where everything is just a little bit off kilter. Having basically talked myself into watching this because everyone reviewed it so highly, despite my internal ethical concerns about even indirectly supporting Roman Polanski, I was very disappointed that this was the end result. The ending, in particular, totally failed to deliver what the buildup to it seemed to promise. If the previous ghost had really known what he did long enough in advance to do what he did, I don’t understand how this was the actual shape of it all. It’s the sort of ending that seems cool at first until you think a little about it. Also the final, final ending was also just disappointing for the sake of being disappointing, I think.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol C, Sex/Nudity C, Violence B, Language D+
Lots of alcohol consumption. An occasional scene of partial nudity and some sexuality. There are a couple of deaths, and torture is a subject in news reports. Language, oddly, is probably the major reason for the PG-13, and this is almost R when you add it all together. I’d say R-15.

Significant Content: D
Politicians are corrupt. Governments are corrupt. Book publishers and agents are moneygrubbers. Only idealistic writers are not corrupt or money grubbing, although they are often alcoholics and adulterers.
Artistic/Thought Value: C The thought value is only in trying to figure out the mystery, and the art value is the skill of creating the atmosphere of this movie. Otherwise, not so much, and certainly not given the ending.

Discussion Questions:
~Why is the ghost writer not given a name in the movie?
~What do you personally believe about spies and the government?
~To what degree should we care about the off-screen lives of people who make films? If you believe Roman Polanski should be in jail right now, is it contradictory to watch his movies? Do you think any less of actors and others who participate in making films with him? What about other products and services? How much should our consumption of something be driven by the product itself as opposed to considerations about who made it?
~When movies make allegations of terrible evil and corruption about government leaders, do you think the fact that these movies are allowed to be made discounts their claims?
Overall Grade: C+
This wants to be hip and cool, but in the end it simply fails to live up to its own aspirations. If you’ve wondered whether to avoid Roman Polanski films on principle, well, don’t make your compromise for this film. I did, and I’m disappointed with myself for it.

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