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Review: A Ghost Story

Rooney Mara eats a pie for ten Goddamn minutes.

Okay, okay, I’m probably exaggerating. It’s probably not literally ten minutes of screen time… but it sure feels like it. It should be an emotionally devastating scene—a quiet, understated breakdown as her character finally begins to come to terms with the recent death of her husband (Casey Affleck, currently looming in the background, clad in a Halloween-style sheet with eyeholes). And, for the first few minutes, it does pack quite a punch. By the time she reached the crust, however, I’d already dozed off twice and experienced all five stages of grief.

Long, lingering shots that linger just a bit too long (to put it charitably) are a recurring problem in A Ghost Story, the latest film from director David Lowery. His previous feature, Disney’s Pete’s Dragon, was effortlessly entertaining, a fairytale that felt grounded in reality without sacrificing its sense of magic and wonder. His style here, though, frequently borders on self-indulgent. To his credit, he eventually finds his rhythm. The movie is at its best in its latter two acts, once Affleck’s silent specter becomes unstuck in time, watching helplessly as his beloved home is invaded by strangers and, ultimately, demolished to make way for high-rises and office buildings.

But no matter how much I try to focus on the positives, my mind always comes back to the image of Mara lugging a heavy steamer trunk across her front yard. Or the interminable static shot of Affleck lying on the autopsy table.

Or Mara eating an entire Goddamn pie.

[Originally written July 29, 2017.]

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