First off, this 1990 film was nominated for best picture and it’s long been my goal to watch and review every single film ever nominated for best picture.
Secondly, my Aunt Kate absolutely loves this movie. Ever since she first found out that I obsessively love movies, she has recommended that I watch this movie. And she hasn’t been alone. A lot of people both in and outside of my family have recommended this film to me. And, since I tend to be a bit of a contrarian know-it-all, I originally assumed that any film loved by that many people had to be terrible. However, because I love mi tia, I decided to watch Ghost.
I have to admit that I started to laugh when I saw Demi Moore sitting at her pottery wheel because I’ve seen that scene parodied in so many different TV shows and movies. As soon as a shirtless Patrick Swayze sat down behind her and joined his hands to hers to help shape a ceramic phallic symbol, I started to giggle. As Unchained Melody played in the background, I wanted to be snarky. But then I realized something. If you can manage watch the scene without comparing it to all the parody versions, it actually works. Patrick Swayze looked good and he and Demi Moore had the type of amazing chemistry that more than made up for the fact that neither one of them was a very good actor. (That said, Patrick was very good at projecting decency and Demi was very good at crying and that’s really all that Ghost required.) And, if the scene has proven easy to parody, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s a very sincere scene. It’s so sincere that it’s even willing to risk coming across as being silly.
Of course, the entire film isn’t just Demi, Patrick, and a pottery wheel. There’s also Whoopi Goldberg as a fake medium-turned-real-medium and Tony Goldwyn as the best friend who turns out to be a sleazy villain. And, of course, there’s the cartoonish demons who pop up every once in a while so that they can literally drag the recently deceased down to Hell.
Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) is the world’s most unlikely New York City-based banker. He owns a beautiful apartment with his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) but he has commitment issues. He can’t bring himself to say that he loves Molly. Instead, he just says, “Ditto.” And, from the minute he first utters those words, you know that his habit of saying “Ditto,” is going to be an important plot point. Anton Chekhov told us that any gun introduced during the first chapter must be fired by the third chapter. Ghost tells us that any “Ditto” uttered during the first 10 minutes must be repeated by the end of the first hour.
Sam’s best friend and co-worker is Carl (Tony Goldwyn). At the start of the film, Sam and Carl have a sweet bromance going and some of the best scenes are just the two of them acting like guys. (There’s a fun little scene where they freak out a group of strangers on an elevator.) Goldwyn is so likable as Carl that it’s actually genuinely upsetting to discover that he’s arranged for Sam to be murdered. (Why? It all involved a lot of financial stuff that basically went right over my head. Greed is not only the root of all evil but it leads to narrative confusion as well.) When Sam dies, he comes back as a ghost but nobody can see him but his fellow ghosts. Vincent Schiavelli has a great cameo as a very angry subway ghost who teaches Sam how “life” works when you’re dead.
(Of course, Schiavelli isn’t on screen for too long because he’s almost too angry for the world of Ghost.)
Eventually Sam discovers that only one living person can communicate with him. Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) is a fake medium who is just as shocked as anyone to discover that she can speak with the dead. Whoopi won an Oscar for her performance here and she’s certainly does bring some needed humor and life to Ghost. With Swayze, Moore, and Goldwyn all giving extremely and sometimes overly dramatic performances, you’re happy to have Whoopi there.
Ghost is designed to appeal to your emotions and it succeeds in doing just that. If you look at the film logically, you’re missing the point. In many ways, the film is undeniably silly but I still got some tears in my eyes when I heard that “Ditto.”