As you can guess from the title, the 1990 movie Ghost is a ghost story. But it’s not a ghost story in the traditional sense, associated with spirits that are frightening and houses that are haunted. Rather, it’s a ghost story with a modern twist, featuring a ghost in sorrow wandering the city of New York with a desperate purpose. Here, Patrick Swayze plays a man named Sam Wheat, who is killed during a street mugging and is left as a spirit that does not yet enter the afterlife because he has unfinished business. That unfinished business involves warning his girlfriend, Molly Jensen who is played by Demi Moore, that her life is in danger. With a setup like this, you can expect three genres to come into play: drama, suspense, and romance (more on all of this in a bit).
What’s nice about the setup is that it features great difficulty for the main character. As a ghost, Sam can see and hear everything that is happening in the world of the living, yet is completely invisible. He cannot physically touch things, nor can he speak to anyone. But he can still feel emotion, and unfortunately, that emotion is primarily sadness. He is forced to watch Molly try to move on with her life, even while he is in the same apartment as she. Sam is basically a spirit who is restless because of an unfinished task and because of the difficulty in completing that task.
It doesn’t stop there. There are a few scenes that reveal another world: the world of spirits. Apparently, Sam is not the only ghost wandering around. He does encounter a few other ghosts, belonging to people who died prematurely. This includes an angry ghost, played by Vincent Schiavelli, who inhabits a subway train after getting killed by one. Later on, there are a few glimpses into what eventually happens to spirits. They either go to heaven if they’re good or go to hell if they’re not.
Fortunately, there may be hope for Sam. After some looking around, he finds that there are a few ways for the spirit world to connect with the living world. The fact that a cat could sense his presence is one. That’s not to say no human can, because there is still one who has that sixth sense: a spiritual advisor named Oda Mae Brown, played by Whoopi Goldberg. She’s actually a con artist with a criminal record going back many years, and she still continues to rip off people by pretending to communicate with spirits. But once Sam enters her parlor, she realizes that she does have the gift of sensing a spirit. Oda Mae is, therefore, Sam’s last hope for getting a message to his beloved Molly.
Let’s get back to the plot of Ghost. I already mentioned that Sam is trying to warn Molly that she is in danger. That’s because Sam, being a spirit who can witness all without being seen himself, learns that his death was no random act of violence and that Molly should’ve died with him. The knowledge that the killer will return and the identity of the mastermind hiring the killer sends Sam into a state of shock and anger. This is where the film’s suspense comes in, on top of the drama related to the challenges of being in spirit form. There are plenty of moments where those challenges plus unexpected events increase the risk that Molly will eventually die.
It’s fine if this movie were to have just drama and suspense. But it wouldn’t be a unique movie. Thankfully, it stands out by reminding us that this is ultimately a love story. Sam cares for Molly so much that, even in spirit form, he won’t rest until he gives her a chance to live. There are a few touching scenes in which Sam and Molly are together once again, even if not directly. The romance that was featured in the beginning of the movie before Sam’s death makes a return. It just shows that love is an eternal emotion. (As long as we’re talking about positive emotion, Ghost does briefly go into a fourth genre: comedy. It’s best illustrated by a scene in which Oda Mae Brown, wearing a pink and black dress, has to assume a false identity with Sam leading her, but makes plenty of little mistakes along the way. Whoopi Goldberg is a good dramatic actress, while still a comic actress at heart.)
Ghost definitely works because of a polished script that tells an engaging story while exploring elements related to the living and the dead. Everything comes together nicely throughout the film. On top of that, the stars of the movie do a good job, from Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Whoopi Goldberg to everyone else. I especially want to give credit to Patrick Swayze, because he can play a guy who is good-looking but also has a good heart. I’m sure other male actors can do the same, but there’s definitely something unique with Swayze in that kind of role. Anyway, Ghost is a nice movie if you love drama, suspense, and romance rolled into one seamless story. Check it out.
Anthony’s Rating: 8/10