' ' Cinema Romantico: Extra Ordinary

Monday, May 11, 2020

Extra Ordinary

In “Extra Ordinary”, Rose Dooley (Maeve Higgins) is an ex-paranormal investigator, akin to “Ghostbusters”, though when that inevitable reference is made, she says she doesn’t get it. This does not suggest the character’s pop culture obliviousness, however, so much as a movie that simply acknowledges its forebearer while maintaining a unique wavelength, one evoked in the title, a useful pun breaking up extraordinary to suggest a life of hyper-normality lived in the realm of the supernatural. Indeed, Rose’s late father, Vincent (Risteard Cooper), a ghostbuster himself of some renown, is heard to proclaim ghosts as “stuck people, lonely people.” Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman’s film might dabble in the occult but its tone skews sweet-natured, David Lowery’s “A Ghost Story” reimagined as a deadpan small-town Irish comedy. The ghosts here are less spooky than sorrowful, just looking for a friend to give them a wave, which Rose is happy to do, suggesting how, despite an effusive personality, she has essentially become a ghost in her life, though Ahern and Loughman’s script is smart enough not to have her say that out loud, allowing wide frames to illuminate isolation as much as lurking apparitions.

Ever since Vincent died in an exorcism gone wrong, Rose has shunned her self-described spectral “talents” by becoming a driver instructor. The occupation is not superfluous but a manifestation of Rose’s own loneliness, the need for conversation and companionship that she struggles to get from other people simply seeking help with ghosts. Single father Martin Martin (Barry Ward), meanwhile, his very name evincing a sense of extra ordinary, suffers not so much from loneliness as too much togetherness, his wife Bonnie deceased but still around, a shrewish specter still running her husband’s life from the in-between, demonstrated in how Ahern and Loughman wryly bend the ghostly cliché of a message in a mirror into Bonnie nagging her spouse by steam.

This scene is emblematic of “Extra Ordinary”, which is not a scary movie, per se, distinctly a comedy. When Bonnie takes possession of her husband’s body, it’s in service of a bizarrely comic love triangle while the villain, an American one hit wonder named Christian Winter who has holed up in an Irish castle for tax purposes, is played by Will Forte. And just as Martin Martin cannot find the wherewithal to ask for Rose’s help to be rid of his wife’s haunting presence, Christian Winter cannot summon the strength to write a new hit song on his own, turning instead to Satan, offering a virgin sacrifice in exchange for climbing the charts. His virgin of choice turns out to be Martin’s daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman), forcing Martin to call on Rose to initiate a race against the clock to stop the sacrifice.

Despite that premise, Forte’s performance is the most heightened element of the film, utilizing his gift for pompous line readings to render him as both bigger than he really is in his own mind and just a little boy, whining whenever something does not go his way. Higgins, on other hand, is entirely low-key, finding the funny merely in how she says something. Her chemistry with Ward is less heated or even romantic than romantically tentative, though that’s not a problem considering the meddlesome politeness of their characters and the ending twist, one of several. That conclusion is a rush of information and the movie’s biggest leap into special effects, though it never goes off the rails, chiefly by maintaining an impressive commitment to deadpan. So deadpan, in fact, that it honors Peter Venkman, even if Rose has no idea who that it is.

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