178. New Year’s Day [D-]
179. The Ghost Writer [B ]
New Year’s Day: I’ll give this movie the Gentleman’s “F.” Actually, it’s less of a movie than a collection of scenes strung together with the thinnest of narratives (A man moves to New York and finds his new apartment is still occupied by the old tenants). Most of the characters are self-absorbed people who offer each other pretentious psychoanalysis that the film wants us to accept as profound. Far from profound, it’s not even amusing. A young David Duchovny appears here (as I continue in my perverse effort to watch his entire filmography) but his role did little to engage my interest. Some "romantic" scenes are downright creepy. Apparently writer/director/star Henry Jaglom has made better movies, but I'm in no rush to see them.
The Ghost Writer: I'd like to hate the films of Roman Polanski, given his personal life, but I've enjoyed every one that I've seen (Chinatown
, The Pianist
, and now The Ghost Writer
). This film is a terrific thriller very much in the mode of Alfred Hitchcock. It's driven by three robust leading performances and too many excellent actors in supporting roles to name (Kim Catrall, sporting an acceptable but not outstanding British accent may be top billed, but her role isn't central). I've heard a few critics complain about the ending, but it works for me, particularly the final shot. Where the film doesn't work is on a technical level. Polanski (due to his criminal history) was forced to shoot the film in Europe. The green screen backdrops of New England look as fake here as they did in Shutter Island
, and this film doesn't benefit from that film's loose reality. The twisty plot also relies on several photographs of Pierce Brosnan and Tom Wilkinson in their younger days--photographs which are horribly photoshopped and seen in unforgiving close-up all too often. These technical shortcomings are pervasive enough to drop this film by a letter grade, unfortunately, but it's still a worthwhile and engaging thriller (and probably the best channeling of Hitchcock that I've seen in a long time).