In an age when there are a whole lot of big, bombastic blockbuster movies being made, especially when many of them are not stemming from original ideas, it is hard not to respect an original idea when it does come along. Enter A Ghost Story, courtesy of director David Lowery. This is nothing if not an original movie, especially in the realm of the supernatural. Something that has been done to death over the years in Hollywood. That said, original as it may be, this movie is strange, quiet, arguably boring and pretty ominous, and the potentially frustrating kind of ominous. It's an admirable swing, but it may be a bit of a miss, depending on why it is you go to the movies and what you expect out of the ones you choose to spend your time with.
In A24's A Ghost Story, following a tragic accident, a recently deceased man returns as a white-sheeted ghost to his suburban home to try to reconnect with his grieving wife. That turns out to be more complicated than it seems. This leads him on a long journey to try and find peace in the afterlife.
Movies are, arguably, some combination of art and entertainment. Really, the idea of film could be looked at as art vs entertainment, but that's a bit of a different discussion. The point is, A Ghost Story is unquestionably a lot more of the former. For anyone who isn't a hardcore cinephile, this movie could be accused of being "artsy fartsy." That accusation may be totally warranted. I don't want it to sound like I am tearing into this movie. I'm not. But your average moviegoer is probably not going to enjoy this movie as a movie theater experience. Especially considering how expensive going to the movies has become. It is a super slow burn. And not the kind of burn that leads to a bundle of dynamite. It just leads to the end of a fuse that fizzles out. Then credits role.
Does your casual moviegoer really want to watch Casey Affleck walk around for in a sheet for 90 minutes while watching people do mostly regular stuff? Do you really want to watch Rooney Mara eat pie for five minutes straight after she checks the mail? These things have a point within the framework of A Ghost Story, don't get me wrong, but this is a bizarre movie that is going to be lost on a lot of people. And possibly, rightfully so. In a movie about a guy who is dead and painfully, hopelessly watches the world move on without him, there is an enormous monologue from a drunk hipster about the meaningless of existence. Not only is this pretty artsy, but it is a bit on the nose at times.
There are a lot of hardcore film people who are really going to like A Ghost Story. A lot of people are going to talk about A Ghost Story for a long time. Two of the finest performers we have, both Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck headline the cast of this movie. Even if the ladder spends almost the entire time under a damn sheet and stands awkwardly somewhere off in a corner while pretty basic stuff happens. Except for when the not normal stuff happens, which is a few times. But the rest of the time drags pretty hard because there is some really mundane stuff going on.
David Lowery is a great director. Ain't Them Bodies Saints is a great movie and Pete's Dragon was a criminally underseen big-budget blockbuster that slipped through the cracks last year. A Ghost Story is not nearly as broadly deserving of such simple praise as "it was great." His other work isn't as frustrating. Then again, neither of those movies were as ambitious.
Ultimately, A Ghost Story is a movie that probably deserves respect. There are some incredible ideas here. The general idea is so original. There are great moments. Some moments where this movie is the movie that you want it to be. But, I think in the eyes of many, it won't totally be that movie. Unfortunately, A Ghost Story may not be worth your money. Especially as a casual moviegoer. Then again, I'm still thinking about it. So there's that.