1990 / Best Picture / Best Supporting Actress

Film #391: Ghost (1990)

We leave Britain behind now but stay in contemporary times with a love story with a supernatural twist. Jerry Zucker’s Ghost starred one of the biggest box office draws of the time, Patrick Swayze star as banker Sam Wheat who becomes the spirit of the title. Although I’d never seen Ghost before, apart from catching bits of on the TV over the years, I was aware of the iconic scene in which Sam put his arms around Demi Moore’s Molly while she was attempting to make a pot.

This sexy pottery scene has been recreated in many spoofs over the years but was used to great effect here to demonstrate the passion that Sam and Molly had for each other. I was surprised by how little time screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin spent on letting us get to know Sam before he was killed off in a supposed mugging in the street. From there on in, Sam had to watch on as a ghost as he realised that his death wasn’t an accident and that somebody he trusted was involved. I felt Rubin’s assertion that some ghosts are all around us whilst other souls are sucked up to heaven or down to hell is an interesting theory. But at the same time I wasn’t that involved in Ghost until Whoopi Goldberg turned up as initially faux psychic Oda Mae Brown. Goldberg really brought the film to life and was able to utilise her comic sensibilities as well as her more dramatic side in order to make her role convincing. In his scenes opposite Goldberg, Swayze demonstrated that he had brilliant comic timing and the two bounced well off one another. However I was then disappointed when she disappeared again and the film became more of a murder mystery as Sam attempted to investigate his death from beyond the grave. Despite its comic elements, Ghost was primarily a romance with Molly essentially being a woman who was struggling to cope without the man she loved.

In the past couple of posts I’ve discussed how certain movie couples lacked the chemistry to convince me of their feelings for one another. That’s not the case with ghost as Moore and Swayze definitely shared perfect chemistry throughout the course of the film. I felt that it was especially hard for them as they had to make their love story convincing despite the fact that they couldn’t communicate for the majority of the film. The aforementioned pottery scene was a particularly memorable example of this love even if it meant that Molly had to work even harder to complete the artwork she’d been working on. This scene also was memorable for its use of The Righteous Brothers’ ‘Unchained Melody’ to the extent that the film re-entered the charts. I can see why Ghost was one of the highest grossing films of the 1990s as I feel that audiences would’ve been won over by the love story and amused by Goldberg’s turn. For me, Goldberg was the highlight of the film and to that extent she certainly deserved the Best Supporting Actress award she won for her role. I was more surprised to learn that the film triumphed in the Best Original Screenplay category as I didn’t think the story was particularly strong. The motivation for Sam’s murder felt particularly weak and I don’t believe that enough time was devoted to the whole money laundering plot. One of the categories that Ghost wasn’t even nominated in was Best Visual Effects however I thought this was one of the film’s strongest areas. The scenes wear the spirits entered other humans was enough to suggest that Ghost’s visual team did all they could to make these apparitions appear convincing. I reckon that if I’d caught Ghost on the TV one night, or watched it in the cinema during its original release, then I’d quite enjoy it as the romantic comedy drama it is. But there’s very little in it to suggest that it should be nominated for Best Picture as there’s nothing about it that’s particularly remarkable but at least I did learn a few valuable pottery lessons.


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