What if you died, and nobody eternally grieved your absence? That’s the basis of A Ghost Story, a movie where some white dude dies and comes back to haunt his wife until she finally moves on and then it turns into a douchey rehash of a good episode of Futurama.
Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck play a married couple for like 5 minutes before Casey Affleck dies in a car accident and then decides to haunt his wife while wearing a giant white sheet because…he’s a selfish douchebag? Seriously, Rooney Mara spends her time grieving and eating a pie (which she promptly throws up because she might be ingesting calories), and listening to Casey Affleck’s douchey indie rock music that my upstairs hipster neighbor might love. And, the sheeted presence seems like it might be a good metaphor for how the presence of a loved one haunts your every thought during the grieving process.
And then it keeps going. And going. And going. By the time we get an amateur philosopher’s douchey drunken explanation of the repetition of worlds and how everything that has always been will be again, Casey Affleck’s ghost has already terrorized a Mexican family because of white privilege. There’s no real other way to explain a scene where a dead white dude breaks all of the housewares of the Mexican family just because he’s upset that his girlfriend has moved on.
It’s sad because this has astoundingly gorgeous cinematography with every frame, put into a 4:3 aspect ratio with rounded corners for maximum nostalgia, looking like it came out of a picture book. The sound mixing is incredible. But, all of this lush attention to detail serves no real purpose. The story has a few stunning conceits behind it, but perhaps even a few too many because the final conceit ultimately shows the limitations of writer-director David Lowery’s budget/imagination.
Is this movie a meditation on grief? On love? On the sticky everlasting residue of European white men? On cosmic eternity? On Malickian pretension? All this and so much more gets wrapped up in the sprawling “film.” There are going to be those who absolutely love this movie and find so much depth in the open ended questions on personal legacy and the nature of presence, and these are the same types who found depth in To The Wonder and other Malickian abstractions of cosmic overly-personal wankery. Much like Malick’s stupefying odes to life, this is a gorgeous film that needs to be edited down and shown on a giant wall with a different soundtrack. It’s also very shallow and silly, thinking it has something important to say about grief or the (im?)permanence of white men in America. But, really, it’s almost all about the shallow narcissism of douchey egotistical hipsters who overstay their welcome.