Death of the screenwriter

Tuesday came and went and with it another wonderful movie night. After last week’s misery I so hoped for a light, entertaining movie, but alas it was not my turn to choose. And so the second film up for review is something by director Roman Polanski, lately better known for his relations with underage girls (and evading prosecution for this for over 30 years) than his filmmaking. I present The Ghost Writer.

The Ghost Writer is a story about a ghost writer (no way), who has to write the memoirs of a former British Prime Minister. What makes it interesting is that this particular former Prime Minister is being investigated for war crimes by the International Criminal Court of The Hague. See how it starts to get juicy? So this writer goes off to an island in the middle of nowhere to meet the man and start writing the book. Some not-so-interesting events occur, prompting the writer to spend what feels like a decade trying to uncover little clues that his predecessor (who was mysteriously found dead – murdered?) left him. He finds photographs and notes and little clues and and an old man and zzzz.

Oh I’m sorry, I must have drifted off… narcolepsy can be a bitch. No I’m serious, I actually fell asleep in the cinema a few times. And it wasn’t because I was particularly tired, it was because the movie was just mind-numbingly dull. There I said it.

I reached a new low when I genuiney considered sneaking next door to see Leon Schuster’s Shucks Something or the Other. Terrible as it may be, I’m sure that would’ve at least kept me half-awake (I heard there’s some really funny pranks involving vuvuzelas and the Western Cape’s favourite lady, Helen Zille). But in the end I thought better of it and decided to sit through the ghost-writing-drama-thriller-nightmare.

My biggest irritation with The Ghost Writer is something that’s quite common in Hollywood thrillers. The suspense factor becomes so crucial that writers spend all their time creating intricate plots and complicated clues, building up to some big reveal. Eventually it’s all tangled up and the viewer really doesn’t know who’s who or what the hell is going on. After sitting through hours of secret meetings and hidden agendas, you rightly expect to be surprised (or at least shocked) in the end. The only problem is that by this time the writers have exhausted themselves and there’s very little room for the conclusion. So they take the easy way out and neatly wrap the whole thing up in no more than 3 scenes or roughly 5 minutes, leaving everyone in the audience kind of going “Huh? Is that it?”.

Now I don’t want to sound like I’m being overtly critical and trying to bash movies just for the fun of it. I honestly walk into the cinema with no preconceived ideas whatsoever. I sit down and genuinely hope that the movie will be something I’ll want to tell all my friends to go see. Unfortunately, the last 2 movies I’ve been to just haven’t been that. But I am optimistic. And I will continue Tuesday night Movie Nights until I find something worth watching.

*Before I forget, it wasn’t all bad. There were some really clever and memorable one-liners by the writer (brilliantly delivered by Ewan McGregor), proof that at least one of the writers has some potential. There is hope yet. Oh and did I mention Kim Cattrall nailing a British accent?

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