F.I.L.M. of the Week (October 16, 2009)

16 10 2009

The “F.I.L.M.” (First-Class, Independent Little-Known Movie) of this week does not precisely fit its billing.  It is not independent (in fact, it’s a studio movie), but unfortunately it is little-known.  Released just last September, “Ghost Town” is one of 2008’s hidden jewels.  It is a witty and wry comedy with a simple yet fantastical premise.  While undergoing a surgical procedure, Bertram Pincus (Ricky Gervais) dies for seven minutes.  He walks out of the operation with a strange side effect – he can see and communicate with the souls of the dead.  While our natural inclination as skeptical moviegoers is to assume that we know the plot just by hearing the premise, “Ghost Town” defies the clichés.  The result is a sentimental movie that tickles the funny bone but warms the heart (and potentially rupturing the tear ducts).

As mentioned earlier, Pincus is unwillingly able to talk to dead people.  One such soul, Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), takes a special interest in Pincus.  Frank wants to use Pincus to tie up some loose ends from his former life.  His widow, the gorgeous paleontologist Gwen (Tea Leoni), is engaged to a man who doesn’t deserve her.  However, the misanthropic Pincus is hardly an ideal wooer, and it will take all that is in him to unleash something resembling charm.  As he grows to know Gwen, patches of sensitivity are revealed beneath his Scrooge-like coating.  But even more unexpectedly, through the ghost that follow him and bark demands incessantly, Pincus begins to discover what a tremendous impact his life could have on everyone around him.

I love a movie with a message, yet it is nearly impossible to find one that has good values without being overly preachy.  “Ghost Town” strikes just the right cord, pushing its message but not getting in your face with it.  The lessons that Pincus learns are applicable to our everyday lives, and they can be summed up in a quote from Albert Einstein: “Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

I implore you to give “Ghost Town” a view sometime soon.  It plays all the time on HBO, so there’s no reason not to watch; resist the temptation to watch some other mindless movie.  If you want some light entertainment with a soul, this is your movie.