This Week in Movies: Ghost Town

Andrew Burford

Ricky Gervais really seems to be gaining momentum in the American entertainment market these days. After hugely successful roles in both the British versions of The Office and Extras, as well as an announcement for his contention in hosting the 2009 Oscars, Gervais brings the David Koepp-directed film Ghost Town to the screen.

Unfortunately for Gervais, nobody seems to know about it in America just yet. After opening to a mere $5 million two weeks ago, Ghost has hardly made a dent in the domestic box office, a shame in its own right since the film is easily the best I’ve seen all season. With slick, subtle writing, impeccable acting by Gervais and a bigger heart than the rest of this fall’s film lineup combined, Ghost Town should not be missed. Those looking for a change of pace from September’s crapfest of movies need look no further.

Gervais proves he can lead a film with ease, starring as Dr. Bertram Pincus in Ghost. Pincus is a modern-day Grinch, a financially — but not socially — successful dentist living in New York City. Lacking the ability to be happy in others’ company, Pincus is a lonely, seemingly hopeless soul ironically lost in a city of millions. Yet after a minor surgery on Pincus goes unexpectedly wrong, doctors are forced to tell him that he had actually died for about seven minutes in the process. Though still alive, Pincus can now miraculously see and communicate with ghosts roaming throughout the streets. Each ghost comes to him requesting to speak with the families and friends they left upon dying. Though Pincus would, under any other circumstances, be the last man on the planet to turn to for an act of kindness, the ghosts cannot ignore such an opportunity. One such ghost named Frank (as played by Greg Kinnear) calls upon Pincus to stop a marriage between his former wife, Gwen (as played by Tea Leoni), and her new boyfriend. Nonetheless the task proves to change Pincus more than anything else could, as he finds himself falling in love with Gwen in what appears to be the first time in far too long. So sets the stage for a dramatic turnaround in Pincus’s life.

The film itself was an unexpected surprise, as I for one had never before experienced the talent Gervais possesses for the screen. Bertram Pincus is a character easily remembered, a challenging feat for any actor regardless of experience in film roles. The subtle humor, furthermore, is cleverly thought out, as written by director David Koepp and former co-writer John Kamps of 2005’s Zathura: A Space Adventure.

Still, most surprising of all is the emotional wallop that Ghost packs on its audience. Never did I expect to be so drawn into the film’s storyline, nor did I imagine myself actually caring about the characters on screen (let alone someone as mean-spirited as Pincus often can be).

Hence it is a shame that Ghost Town is not more popular in the United States. This is a must-see in theaters. If you have the chance, do yourself a favor and take it. If not, then hopefully the DVD will garner a cult-following, as it genuinely deserves the attention. Ghost Town is playing in the Hamilton Theater now.