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A Ghost Story (2017)

Liongsate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 10/3/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 10/4/2017

When it comes to the amount of detail placed in a movie, I'm on the fence. On the one hand, I think of myself as an intelligent person, so I don't have to be spoon-fed when it comes to the story. Things can be subtle or mysterious, or downright weird at times, just as long as the whole feels cohesive. However, we get many movies which are too vague for their own good. The story can be very lacking in detail or even non-existent, leading to movies where it feels as if nothing is happening, or worse, like the filmmakers actually had no idea what the story was, so they "leave it open to interpretation", which can be code for "we didn't know how to end it". We've seen plenty of movies which fall into that second category, but few can match the shenanigans of A Ghost Story.

A Ghost Story introduces us to a couple (Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara), and we watch their everyday lives. However, he dies and comes back as a ghost wearing a sheet. Only able to observe, but not interact, he is forced to watch his love go through the grieving process. But, when she moves on, it appears that he is trapped in the house, and must be a voyeur with other people.

The older I get, the less patience I have with movies which aren't cohesive, aren't well-paced, and, for lack of a better term, feel as if they are beating around the bush. What's even worse is when these movies are unnecessarily stretching out a minute amount of story. It seems as if it would be common sense -- shoot the story which you have and don't add padding. A Ghost Story commits both of these sins to an extent to which is rarely seen. I say this so much that it's almost become a cliche, but this would have made a great short film, as there is about 10 minutes of story here. Writer/Director David Lowery had the chance to make a concise, poignant piece about loneliness, regret, and the illusion of time. Instead, we get something which feels like an endurance challenge.

So, we have two main problems with A Ghost Story. First of all, the movie doesn't keep its title's promise of having a story. What we have here is more of just an idea. A guy dies and returns as the old-fashioned sheet with two black eye holes. And then he simply stands around and watches life and time pass before him. I can only imagine that the script was 15-20 pages, max. The basic concept here is easy to grasp, but all other details are absent. First of all, there is basically no character development here. We learn that he is a composer, and that's about it. From there, we simply watch the ghost watch other people live their lives -- and we really don't learn anything any of those people. During the last few minutes, assuming that you've made it that far, Lowery decides to introduce some time-loop ideas, which feel very reminiscent of Insidious: Chapter 2.

The other issue with A Ghost Story is the pacing. Lowery has decided to take his wafer of a story and stretch it out to 90-minutes. I guess the question of "Why?" is moot, so we will simply focus on the fact that we get a scene in which we get to see Mara eat a pie in real-time. And this comes early in the movie. This clearly isn't a film which is concerned about reeling in the audience, when we are treated to something so avant garde. (Yes, I get that it represents her grief, but it's still incredibly boring.) To put it very simply, A Ghost Story isn't for everyone, especially those who demand things like entertainment from their entertainment. I know that the high-falutin' crowd is falling over themselves to praise the movie, but trust me, it's so boring that it borders on pointless.

A Ghost Story also leaves us wondering about other ghosts on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The box claims that the film is framed at 1.78:1, but it's not. It's sort of like 1.33:1, but it bears more of a resemblance to an old 4-inch by 4-inch photograph. The image is sharp and clear, showing no intrusive grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but the movie looks flat at times. (This may have to do with the odd framing.) The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a very quiet movie, so other than the score, we don't get much in the way of stereo or surround effects.

The A Ghost Story Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Writer/Director David Lowery, Cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo, Production Designer Jade Healy and Composer Daniel Hart. "A Ghost Story and the Inevitable Passing of Time" (20 minutes) has Lowery, Affleck, and several members of the team discussing the movie...while sitting in a circle in a haunted rectory. That last idea is actually more interesting than the movie itself. This also includes some on-set stills. In "A Composer's Story" (5 minutes), Hart discusses his working relationship with Lowery and how he incorporated music from his band into the film. The Disc offers one DELETED SCENE which runs about six minutes. Believe it or not, nothing of note happens in the scene.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long