THE GHOST WRITER
BY CHRISTOPHER HASKELL
AUGUST 7, 2010
The unfortunate part of Hollywood is that personal problems usually garner more attention than the films being produced there. Roman Polanski had one of those years. Polanski’s Switzerland house arrest spoke louder than his new film, “The Ghost Writer.” The political drama proved less interesting than the international incident occurring behind the curtains.
Born in 1933, Polanski has been through tremendous feats, personally and professionally, throughout his life. From his wife, Sharon Tates’ murder and “Rosemary’s Baby,” to accusations of sexual assault and “The Ghost Writer,” Polanski has experienced more than most people should. Yet somehow the general public cannot let his work speak for itself.
With all the personal millings aside, “The Ghost Writer” was still captivating yet somehow lacking completely even on its own. Ewan McGregor plays a ghostwriter (unnamed in the film), who accepts a job ghosting former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (Pierce Brosnan). In the death of his original ghostwriter, Lang turns to the new ghostwriter to carry on where the former ghost left off. With strange and strict rules, enforced by secretary Amelia Bly (Kim Cattrall), McGregor’s character is led down the proverbial rabbit hole, uncovering more than just the apparent murder of his predecessor and the war-mongering allegations of his new client.
McGregor plays bewildered and innocent, traits shared in many of his previous characters. Much like his performance in “Deception,” McGregor is placed into a world unknown to his character and forced to adapt to his surroundings. Not only does he pull this off with great Scottish vigor, but he charms his way into more than just Lang’s wife’s bed (Olivia Williams). The same cannot be said for the rest of the cast, however. Each character appears transparent and mainly a backdrop to amplify McGregor. Brosnan suits his character but lacks development due to little screentime. Kim Cattrall hands off her “nude and lewd” shtick and plays her role with sophistication and remarkable grace. Olivia Williams overshoots her role and flies completely off the radar, delivering a “what-was-that” performance of negative connotation.
The political espionage plot spills off the pages of the book “The Ghost,” by Robert Harris, who also helps with the screenplay. Though the story falls somewhat short of grabbing your attention, the visuals remain completely original. Lang’s beach home, with wall-to-wall windows overlooking the beach and corridors twisting the characters, makes the film appear edgier. Polanski also has a way of making a custodian brushing leaves off a porch a positive point of interest and while continually grasping the espionage allure.
Polanski’s personal life would probably make for a better film, but “The Ghost Writer” still finds a way to reach all the levels it should without going above and beyond any preconceived notions. With little to no gripping plot, the McGregor factor pulls the film through. Stitch in Polanski’s great directorial eye complete with stunning photography and the film remains viewable, yet nothing more than average.
March 19, 2010
by Robert Harris
(for language, brief nudity/sexuality, some violence and a drug reference)
Hervé de Luze