It’s like Sideways mixed with Angels in the Outfield mixed with As Good As It Gets, except a whole lot better than that concoction sounds.
I found myself in New York (for those of you who have a map on their basement wall with pins in it, following my progress around the world) this weekend, and I got pumped about seeing something different and special that we wouldn’t get here until two weeks before it came out on DVD. And…nothing! I guess there is a lull right before Oscar contenders burst onto the scene, and it’s possible the cinematic world could be holding its breath in desperate anticipation of this Friday’s Beverly Hills Chihuahua, but whatever the case may be, my options were limited. So we escaped the rain and the crowds and ducked into Ghost Town.
If you haven’t seen the BBC version of The Office, you haven’t lived. Or, more accurately, you haven’t experienced the uniquely soul-crushing mortification that Ricky Gervais‘s David Brent* can cause. Gervais is so associated with the character that it’s difficult to separate him from David in other shows and movies (like HBO’s Extras), yet somewhere along the line, Ricky clearly met and carefully studied a former roommate of mine. This dear fellow (you are close to my heart, dude), who eventually became a fine, upstanding, caring creature, was formerly quite content living life as a tidy little snot. Bertram Pincus, D.D.S. (Gervais) is not so misguided that he thinks he’s happy this way, it’s just that he thinks this is the way things have to be. People are obnoxious, everything is stupid, you live alone, you die alone, let’s just get on with it.
Gosh, it even makes my heart break just to remember it. He gets better, of course, but at a slower, more realistic pace than you might expect from a film of this ilk. I mean, the rest of the movie is classic romantic comedy drivel that would be in danger of collapsing into an overly silly heap, but Bertram Pincus, D.D.S…he’s the kind of character that can elevate even a horribly-titled film about ghosts living in New York City. Well, whatever, I guess some sort of device had to set the wheels of poignancy in motion so that Bertram can find the motivation to change his tune, and it might as well be ghosts who need closure or something. Greg Kinnear can phone it in all he wants, it doesn’t matter. Everyone in this film is just a backdrop to the least glamorous person in it — a dentist who becomes a tiny bit happier. Who says a horribly-titled romantic comedy can’t be beautiful?** Turns out all you need to do is just provide it with an overdone framework, next to which an extraordinary talent looks even better. Maybe you keep a couple of other goals in mind too, like not casting the reigning starlet, or directing it with an elegant hand, but after that, you should be set.
I can’t guarantee that if you see this film you’ll be surprised or amazed or astounded, but chances are, you will wonder why it feels so different. ‘Tis the long lost shadow of the everyman! And, except for the whole talking to ghosts thing, maybe it’s OK to watch someone’s life change in a more ordinary way. It can’t be Stardust every year, right?***
*You may know the character as Steve Carell’s Michael Scott.
**Answer: a lot of people.
***Ricky Gervais is actually in Stardust too! Totally coincidence, I swear.