' ' Cinema Romantico: Ghosted

Monday, May 08, 2023


Cinema, pardon me, Movies, pardon me, Streaming Content, might be about spending time in the company of Beautiful People, and Ana de Armas and Chris Evans might officially be Beautiful People (a ceremony that typically takes place in a backroom at the Met Gala), but this is true only up to a point. That beauty needs to sizzle on (your TV) screen, or that beauty needs to be turned upside down, or preferably, both need to happen. Dexter Fletcher’s Apple TV+ “Ghosted” achieves neither as farmer’s market denizen Cole (Evans) and Sadie (de Armas), a CIA agent posing as an art curator, fall in and out of and back in love while on the run from bad guys and in search of a MacGuffin that’s somehow even a notch below “Knight and Day’s” (2010) not-fabled Zephyr. “Ghosted” suggests last year’s “The Lost City,” which itself deliberately suggested “Romancing the Stone” (which looks more and more looks like a five-mic masterpiece with every passing year), but if the Brad Pitt and Sandra Bullock characters were the principals and their genders reversed. Yet if that movie was far from very good, never mind perfect, it at least conveyed its wackadoodle plot with some twinkly enthusiasm and evinced a screwball energy in its performances, two qualities that “Ghosted” conspicuously lacks and which, as much as anything, dooms its nigh two-hour running time to the watch-while-folding-laundry pile.

Chris Rock once observed that on a first date you were not meeting a person, you were meeting a person’s representative. That’s never been truer than “Ghosted” and yet rather than taking advantage of the golden metaphor contained within their own screenplay to explore such dating false fronts, the cavalcade of four writers ultimately opts for a more rote approach by tying Sadie’s relationship struggles to the loss of her mother and Cole’s to his clingy over eagerness. The former never takes flight, too earnest given the surreal context and never provided enough room to breathe for all that’s going on, while the latter suffers because Evans’s performance never emits any of the mania written into the character. (The notion of his stalking her across the Atlantic, meanwhile, is mostly elided rather than dealt with a la “There’s Something About Mary.”) If neither character quite works on their own, they are equally ineffective together, whether bickering or besotted, de Armas and Evans evincing no undercurrent of sexual crackle in either situation, such crackle being this kind of movie’s raison d’etre. Even when their characters are briefly marooned on a deserted island in the Arabian Sea, they are shot to look like air conditioning is at full blast. They’re Beautiful People; let them sweat ‘til they bleed! It’s telling how many times other characters explicitly comment on their supposed sexual energy, as if attempting to will it on behalf of a director that can’t find a way to muster it on his own, evocative of a movie that just wants the audience to accept what’s supposed to be as opposed to manufacturing it, further epitomized in the occasional big-name cameos that have no reason to exist beyond sleight of hand; look at these famous faces, never mind nothing is really here.

If there’s a cameo that works, it’s Tim Blake Nelson as the villainous Borislov, who prefers torture via insect, a character that feels baked in rather than simply about the person playing the part. Then again, he gets moved aside early, paving the way for the even more villainous Adrien Brody, whose slimy visage is never utilized in any amusing way, the sequences among bad guys all strangely straight-faced and at frustrating odds with the nominal comedy. There are some action set-pieces born of good ideas, whether a car chase by bus or a revolving restaurant moving at high speed, but none madcap enough in their rendering to be funny, none stylishly enough composed to be thrilling. It epitomizes an action slash adventure slash romantic comedy movie that in failing to meld these tones together comes across entirely muddled, taking red, yellow, and blue and running them through the moviemaking wash so that “Ghosted” comes out just one more indistinct Hollywood grey.

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