After being killed during a botched mugging, a man’s love for his partner enables him to remain on earth as a ghost.
One of the most famous films of the 1990’s, ‘Ghost’ was a commercial smash on its release and the famous pottery scene has gone on to become one of the most iconic moments in film history. I first saw the film when I was a lot younger, and the years that have passed were sufficient enough for me to forget the details of the plot, if not the general outline. The plot centers on a young woman in jeopardy (Demi Moore) and the ghost of her murdered lover, Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze), who tries to save her with the help of a reluctant psychic (Whoopi Goldberg). As the viewer would expect, things aren’t as straightforward as Wheat being the victim of a random street mugging, and this fuels the film’s narrative. The mystery element driving the plot is intriguing, with the premise of a man investigating his murder from behind the grave ripe with possibilities, and ‘Ghost’ takes advantage of most of them.
Since its release in 1990 the film has certainly aged, particularly in the effects department (not unexpected given the time period, but the black shadows really don’t look great!), but I was surprised at how well the central thrust of the story holds together. The three lead performances from Swayze, Moore and Goldberg are all very strong, with Swayze’s charisma and Goldberg’s hilarious performance helping to prevent the film becoming overly cheesy. The core cast is filled out by Rick Aviles street thug and Sam Wheat’s work colleague, played with an appropriate level of sleaze by an incredibly young Tony Goldwyn (most will know him these days as the president in TV’s ‘Scandal’). The combination of these performances and a strong opening to the story help to invest the viewer from the outset, and this helps to overcome some of the shakier moments that come further down the line.
The two things that really make the film work are, firstly, Whoopi Goldberg’s excellent performance as a fraudulent medium who finds out she does have the ability to talk to the dead. Her performance lightens the material considerably and prevents ‘Ghost’ from being a much darker tale (given this was directed by Jerry Zucker of ‘Airplane!’, the humour is not overly surprising). The levity Goldberg and Vincent Schiavelli’s ‘Subway Ghost’ bring to proceedings helps to balance against the central romantic story and stop the film from becoming overly schmaltzy. Secondly, I’m usually a bit sceptical about the romantic elements in films (call me a cynic!), but the chemistry between Swayze and Demi Moore is clear for all to see here, and it’s hard not to be seduced by their love story. ‘Unchained Melody’ may now by synonymous with dodgy cover versions, but as featured here, it is incredibly romantic.
‘Ghost’ is a film very much of its time, with the early use of special effects and cheesy dialogue very much at one with its time period sandwiched between the 80’s and the 90’s, but at its core, there’s an interesting premise well developed and the strong performances help to make ‘Ghost’ an enjoyable romantic drama that holds up pretty well today.
Directed By: Jerry Zucker
Starring: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, Rick Aviles and Vincent Schiavelli