'The Ghost Writer's' critical prospects should overshadow any Polanski controversy
There has been much speculation about Roman Polanski's new thriller "The Ghost Writer" since the controversy over his possible extradition to the United States began in Sept. And considering the commercial prospects of the material, its easy to see why.
Based on the Robert Harris novel of the same name, "Writer" centers on a celebrity ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) who is hired to help finish the autobiography of a disgraced ex-British Prime Minister (Pierce Brosnan). While the writer visits the PM in the states to work on the book, the former British leader is indicted by the World Court for his handling of terror suspects while in power. Needless to say, all hell goes loose politically, professionally and within the PM's personal life. As the days progress, the writer begins to tie together some of the more powerful people from the PM's life into a possible conspiracy. Is it real or all just the crazy speculation of an over-zealous author?
Polanski, who who an Oscar for directing "The Pianist," ended up completing the picture while under house arrest in Zurich over the past two months. Summit Entertainment, which co-financed the film will released it here in the states shortly after its debut at the Berlin Film Festival. Polanski certainly won't be there, but it will be a media mob scene for reactions to the picture. Is it a hit? Does it tell us anything about the filmmaker's current legal struggle (really, someone will ask that)? Or more importantly, s it actually good?
Well, having been lucky enough to screen "The Ghost Writer," I can say it may be one of the most commercial and entertaining films from Polanski in decades. "The Pianist" may be his artistic tour-de-force, but "Writer" is an elegantly constructed thriller with a subtly and sophisticated surprise ending that sticks with you days after seeing it. I'm unable to provide a full review, but its worth noting that the cast is exceptional with Tom Wilkinson (pretty much perfect), Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams as stand outs. In fact, critical and audience reaction should overshadow any negative press on Polanski's situation. This is one of those rare winter/early spring flicks that should play for quite awhile as word of mouth spreads. It could certainly be a much bigger "Tell No One" in terms of its commercial prospects. Not a blockbuster mind you, but a strong moneymaker for U.S. distribuor Summit Entertainment.
With that in mind, Summit released a new poster for the film today. They smartly avoided the old floating heads motif, but McGregor with a manuscript flying to the winds seems a bit to literal for a marketing sell. Additionally, it wouldn't hurt to suggest the triangle that Williams (as the PM's wife) and Kim Cattrall (as his long time Sr. assistant) bring to the mix. This will play to adults, but something just a tad hipper could have helped with the twentysomething art house set. Then again, that "Avatar" poster is pretty lame too and that hasn't affected it's run has it? Summit is no doubt much more focused on the trailer and TV spots.
As of now, "The Ghost Writer" opens in limited release on Feb. 19 and is pretty much a must-see for any true movie fan. Accompanying controvery or not.