David Koepp’s latest directing job is surprisingly effective. The good news is that the Ghost World trailer isn’t at all representative of the film itself. I suspect the main problem lies with Ricky Gervais’ style of humour – his rambling, never-ending unfinished sentences don’t really make for good 5-second sound bytes, which is exactly what trailer editors think they need.
Here Gervais plays a grumpy, lonely dentist named Bertram Pincus. He can’t stand idle chatter, lofty debates or friendly gestures from colleagues, which makes up a significant portion of our everyday existence. Thus, he’s not a happy chappy. When a routine operation goes wrong he finds himself seeing dead people. It turns out the dead are just as needy as the living, so he has twice as many annoyances in his life now, not to mention the fact that the living now think him a little crazy and kind of creepy.
The first fifteen minutes or so of this film are just what I expected. Seeing ghosts follow Bertram around all day isn’t particularly interesting, and the ghosts themselves are kind of dull and make their appearances at the convenience of the script. It’s the romantic element of the film that works rather well, though. Téa Leoni is a great foil for Gervais and their unlikely love story is really quite effective. When things get really dire, the film ceases to be funny and edges into depression-territory, and this is actually more involving than all the jokes.
It’s always been apparent that Gervais has some serious acting skills, and whilst we don’t see anything new here (he’s a sarcastic, sad and lonely man), he’s at the top of his game. Also, it’s becoming more and more distracting for this reviewer just how similar his expressions and gestures are to that of David Bowie. Watch the short film Jazzin’ for Blue Jean if you don’t believe me. The supporting cast here are solid – Greg Kinnear does well in a role that can’t have been too exciting for him; whilst Kristen Wiig and Michael-Leon Wooley steal the show as Betram’s surgeon and the hospital lawyer respectively.
On the whole, Ghost Town is entirely predictable, but it’s the great writing that works in its favour. Some of the dialogue is quite profound, and whilst the film starts out rather lacklustre it ends on a strong note.Rating: