a romantic comedy i might actually get through?

stephanie zacharek on ghost town

“Ghost Town” is similarly well-crafted. Call me old-fashioned, but I like a movie that looks like it cost more than 29 cents to make (even — especially — if its actual budget was 28 cents), a picture that suggests someone put time and care into its planning and execution, instead of just turning a hand-held camera on the actors after supplying them with a hastily typed-up script peppered with pop-culture references. That’s not to say there aren’t filmmakers out there capable of doing interesting things within tiny budgets (and Lord knows those filmmakers exist in other countries, too, making movies that most of us never get to see). But mainstream movies have gotten so big, glossy and empty in recent years that we often assume indie pictures are better just because they’re somehow less shiny, and that’s a fallacy. You can’t blame intelligent audiences for turning away from mainstream romantic comedies in recent years. But self-conscious, rambling exercises like Alex Holdridge’s recent indier-than-thou romantic comedy “In Search of a Midnight Kiss” aren’t an antidote to true Hollywood stinkers like “Over Her Dead Body.” They only offer further proof that it takes focus and discipline to make a romantic comedy work. And while it’s true that Judd Apatow has given the genre a shot in the arm in recent years, even vivid, vital pictures like “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up” are not exactly elegant.

“Ghost Town,” on the other hand, finally brings some class to the joint. Shot in New York, the picture has a feel for what it’s like to live in the city: Instead of making Central Park look like a tourist destination, cinematographer Fred Murphy shows us a sturdy landscape of paths and trees that people use and enjoy every day. The movie’s greatest pleasures unfold in the form of little details, like the way the Beatles’ “I’m Looking Through You” pops up on the soundtrack when Frank discovers that he’s no longer flesh and blood but ectoplasm. The joke is quite literal, but it’s also a gentle metaphor for the way we can’t always fully know even the people we love best.

let’s see: this year i’ve seen easy living (over 70 years old) & wristcutters (on the fringes of the genre, i think we can agree).

judd apatow, you’re kidding, right?.


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September 2008
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