2020, Movies

Blithe Spirit (2020, Edward Hall)

This is a remake of a David Lean movie I’ve never seen that feels like it was remade because of the potential to make it vaguely “feminist.” It’s sporadically funny but suffers from a possibly bad casting decision and the usual incoherence that comes with ghosts.

So I haven’t seen the original and I don’t know how well it’s held up. But this story definitely feels like there is potential for comedy. And there are some laughs, though there could be more. Though it’s a silly story there’s definitely gags to be had.

I had two big problems with the movie.

The first is a typical problem for a ghost story, which that the ghost corporeality varies with the plot. Now, this movie tries to explain this away with the idea that the male lead’s attention and feeling determines in part the ghost’s corporeality. But that doesn’t hold up much at all. And the ghost does what she wants without regard to any rules. (They can’t touch each other but she can touch inanimate objects but later they have sex.) Yes, this is a problem in nearly every movie with ghosts, but this one feels particularly messy. They just don’t seem to care about consistency. And there are additional plot holes outside of what the ghost can and can’t do, however the biggest one concerns a fairly major spoiler.

And then there’s Leslie Mann. The entire rest of the cast is British – until the action moves to Hollywood – and Mann seems to be trying and failing to be British in the earliest scenes. Now, maybe I was imagining things and she’s playing American the whole time, but the lines where it sounded like she was trying to be British were really, really bad. I can’t decide whether or not this is bad casting or bad writing plus bad casting. And the reason I feel this way is because she is actually pretty good in the role as long as you don’t wonder about where she’s supposed to be from. In fact, the end of the movie sort of implies she’s American – again, explaining why would be a fairly major spoiler – but I swear I heard her trying and failing to be British more than once. Maybe if I’d enjoyed the movie more, I would have paid more attention and wouldn’t have possibly imagined Mann trying to sound British, but I thought I heard it and it sounded like a disaster.

For me, though, the bigger issue was really a writing one, with the whole film relying too much on inconsistencies with the ghost’s behaviour. More laughs might have made me care less about that, though.


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