Ghost Town


You know the kind of person who always seems angry at or disgusted by the world
and all the people around him? 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 about why that kind of person is the way he is…or do we just try to avoid him?

What about the guy who is married to what seems to be, and actually is, a wonderful woman who loves him, treats him well, but he cheats on her anyway? What goes on in his head…and heart?

Some answers to those questions can be found 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 any kind of real human contact. He chose dentistry because the practice 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 the entire world, like the kind of guy who has no heart and no patience for anyone who does…until he goes into the hospital for a routine colonoscopy.

Insisting on a general anesthetic, he accidentally dies for seven minutes. When he is revived, the hospital doesn’t tell him what happened. He does rather immediately realize, however, that he has become an adult version of the Haley Joel Osment character in The Sixth Sense. He sees dead people…and they see him…and they all have unfinished business that they want him to help them complete.

Meet Frank Herlihy (played by Greg Kinnear), who seems like the polar opposite of Dr. Pincus. 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. Realizing that he has left his wife in a very vulnerable state, he seeks help.

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 at first to simply be a comedy with some wonderfully funny dialogue and moments. As it progresses, however, it becomes a fascinating and compelling romantic drama in which two men help each other learn why they have 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 Tea Leoni.

At its deepest level, Ghost Town also 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 ever again be hurt. For some, the root cause could be childhood trauma, such as physical, mental, emotional and/or sexual abuse. For others, it could be loved ones who have abandoned us and broken our hearts. For still others, it could be experiences in which our lives seem to come crashing down around us.

It is said that our souls only expose us to those kind of painful experiences for two reasons. First, when they have already tried to find other ways to help us learn those life lessons in less painful ways but somehow we have ignored all the warning signs. Second, when the lessons learned are essential to our life journey. Dr. Bert and Frank have both constructed elaborate and seemingly impenetrable fortresses around their hearts. Much like the characters in Reign On Me, their relationship provides them the opportunity to heal their deepest wounds and then move on. Two films in the last two years that have focused on men reconnecting to their emotional selves. Heartening indeed. Pun very much intended.

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’s Spiritual Cinema.

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