The Ghost Writer

2010Political Thriller ∙ 2h 8min

I’m still a little puzzled by the love showered upon Polanski from those in the Hollywood establishment. Even those actors who are so PC about other things seem to excuse his statutory rape thing because he’s an “artist.” Yeah, the guy directed Chinatown, which was awesome, and Rosemary’s Baby was pretty good, but most of his other shit I’ve never heard of or don’t care about (except for The Pianist, which was ok). It’s not as if Spielberg drugged an underage girl, banged her and then skipped the country. Him I’d defend, maybe. And, honestly, after watching this stinker I’m even more on the side that the CIA should have tracked him down and dragged his ass back here to stand trial – or at least some public shaming.

Political and personal feelings aside, this movie feels like a bit of a joke. The whole thing has that false, stiff air of a stage play. Nothing is fluid or natural or even remotely suspenseful in the way he is attempting to make it. Hollow. That’s really the word that encapsulates my feeling about it.

The gist of the story is that there is this ex-British Prime Minister who is trying to write his memoir by means of a ghostwriter. That’s how these things get done, after all. His first ghostwriter commits suicide while in the middle of writing the thing and Ewan McGregor’s character is called in to replace him. In researching what has been written and what is left to write he starts uncovering stuff about the Prime Minister and his dealings that leads him to believe that perhaps the old ghostwriter’s suicide wasn’t so much of a suicide. And let the convoluted nonsense begin. He finds clues on thumb drives and on GPS systems and randomly walking down the beach (the thing takes place in a town that’s supposed to be like Cape Cod or something).

Mixed with this low-key sleuthing is some personal intrigue between the Prime Minister and his assistant and the ghostwriter and the Prime Minister’s wife. And maybe the gardener and the maid and the fuckin’ guy fishing off a dock and a harp seal. Every move is telegraphed, every plot line a total yawn. While most movies have twists and turns that are surprising, or even interesting, this one had twists and turns that are barely recognizable as such.

And on top of the general malaise of the film is the over-the-top acting from just about everyone involved (again, reminding me of a stage play rather than a movie) and the sweaty, nervous portrayal of the ghostwriter that makes me wonder what happened to the Ewan McGregor who starred in Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. He’s completely unlikable and annoying in this movie, barely covering his accent and kind of skulking around like a beaten puppy.

And then there’s the end. I think Polanski is trying to be profound, but it just ends up as one of those thank god this thing is over and good riddance moments.