You know the kind of person who always seems angry at or disgusted by the world? He’s the kind of guy who seems to wear a big sign around his neck that says, “Don’t bother me for any reason at any time.” Ever wonder why he is the way he is?
What about the guy who is married to a wonderful woman who loves him and treats him well — yet he cheats on her anyway? What goes in his head … and heart?
Such are the character flaws of the unlikely pair of protagonists in Ghost Town, an absolutely enchanting, funny, and very poignant film about the choices we make and why we may behave the way we do.
Meet Dr. Bert Pincus (brilliantly played by Ricky Gervais) a dentist who seemingly has no use for real human contact. He chose dentistry because it allows him to keep gauze or appliances in people’s mouths so they can’t communicate with him. He treats everyone around him with cold indifference and seems to have no heart — and no patience for anyone who does.
Then Dr. Bert goes in for a routine colonoscopy and ends up on the operating table — where he accidentally dies for seven minutes. When he revives, the hospital doesn’t tell him what happened. But he does rather immediately realize that he sees dead people.
Now meet Frank Herlihy (Greg Kinnear), who seems like the polar opposite of Dr. Bert. Charming, charismatic and friendly, he has a smile and a line for everyone — including his wife, on whom he is cheating with a much younger woman. He seems to have it all figured out until he gets in the way of a bus and finds himself very quickly deceased.
Dr. Bert, meet Frank. One dead. One alive. Two people with no connection to their own hearts. Two self-centered guys who just happen to meet, in the Twilight Zone. (Cue theme music).
On the surface, Ghost Town seems to be simply a comedy with some wonderfully funny dialogue and moments. But as it progresses, it becomes a fascinating and compelling romantic drama in which two men help each other learn why they’ve both been so self-centered. And, oh yes, there is also a charming and eccentric love story that revolves around Frank’s wife Gwen, played with wit and grace by Téa Leoni.
Ghost Town has great compassion for those of us who have been wounded at such a deep level that we are terrified to ever put ourselves in any situation in which we could be hurt again. Dr. Bert and Frank have both constructed elaborate and seemingly impenetrable fortresses around their hearts, much like the characters in Reign Over Me.
Ghost Town is one of those wonderful films that works on the surface while you’re watching it and then stays with you long after you’ve left the theater. And that is Spiritual Cinema.