Ghost – Review

by Ken B.

Ghost is an effective movie, combining humor, romance, and action successfully. It’s not great, mind you, but still an enjoyable feature, with solid performances and a love-conquers-all message sure to leave viewers with at least something.

Patrick Swayze plays Sam Wheat, a banker in New York who has just moved into a new apartment with his girlfriend, Molly Jensen (DEMI MOORE). One night, while returning home after seeing a Shakespeare production (Macbeth, of course!), Sam is mugged and shot. He dies, but the sudden death causes him to remain fully aware of his surroundings but no one sees him – he’s a ghost. He discovers his death was not an accident, it was premeditated over a large bank account and orchestrated by one of his coworkers. It turns out Molly’s in danger as well, so to communicate the message, he seeks out a petty criminal (who sets up shop as a medium), Oda Mae Brown (WHOOPI GOLDBERG, in an Oscar-winning role). She can actually hear him, finding out that she actually does withhold supernatural skills.

Ghost is directed by Jerry Zucker, who shows his ability to handle a film containing multiple genres, instead of silly slapstick comedy (he’s part of the three man team behind things like Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and Top Secret). The screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin has a working drama format with comedy (from Goldberg’s character) and several respectably choreographed action sequences. Also, the pottery wheel industry must treat this movie like the Holy Grail.

The music is composed by Maurice Jarre. Jarre is most known for composing the iconic score in Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962). As he moved into the mid-1980s and beyond, Jarre transitioned to a preference for writing synthesizer heavy music. That’s apparent in Ghost, but it still contains its fair share of emotion to its hand. What struck me most about the visual style of Ghost was something that is noticeable in many films of the era, an emphasis on heavily stylized lighting, with rustic tinted colors shining down on the characters and artistic cinematography inserting the mood into a viewer’s only way of experiencing a scene. This method requires experience and delicacy from the one framing it, and Zucker, alongside Alex Greenberg, are able to create a wonderful atmosphere throughout the entire 126 minute runtime. The acting is solid, with good performances from Swayze and Moore, but Goldberg must be praised specifically. The comedienne adds a great comic relief in her scenes, and takes the character and makes her very likeable. Her Academy Award was well deserved, but a strange selection for AMPAS, which leads some to believe that this was an Oscar given collectively for roles in previous films, back to The Color Purple (Spielberg, 1985).

It occurred to me that Ghost comes off as the kind of story that is only told cinematically. Its tone and plot come around in a way that only works once every now in then in the movies. Anything else would just come off as odd and off putting. In the midst of my post-viewing research, however, I still discovered that this: and this: actually existed. (Go ahead, click on the links. Seriously. Read just how they milk every last cent out of this thing.)

Ghost was nominated for 5 Academy Awards, and one of them was Best Picture. This is odd. Despite it being enjoyable, it would have to be a pretty slow year for this to be considered one of the best movies of it. The main reason it was nominated for the biggest prize of the night, probably, was for high viewership. Ghost pulled in a half-billion dollars worldwide, and half of it was from North America. Many saw Ghost, and when it was nominated, tuned in to see what it took home. The Oscars viewership has been declining in recent years, and it may be from not nominating box-office hits that were actually good movies. Had, in 2012, they slipped in The Avengers or TDKR, two respectably well received movies with over $1B worldwide, they may have been able to solve their declining ratings problem.

But that’s off topic. Ghost is a nice movie, nothing great, but nice. With protagonists you like and antagonists you hate (or at least dislike somewhat, if you can’t get into it), this is one movie that won’t be quickly forgotten. According to RT, David Nusair calls Ghost an “unapologetic crowd pleaser”. Ditto.