Ghostbusters (2016) Review

Though there have been rumours of a new ‘Busters movie for years I never really thought it would happen.  When it was announced that a new movie was not actually happening, like really happening, but that the cast would be all women, I was really looking forward to it. Despite the poor first trailer I stuck by it and stuck up for it, largely on the basis that it was another Melissa McCartney/Kristen Wiig/Paul Feig vehicle. I’ve been a big fan of McCartney and Wiig since Bridesmaids and a fan of Feig ever since he helped Sabrina with science in Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

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As I’m sure you can imagine I was pretty excited when I finally got to see it at the cinema. We paid our money and purchased overprice yet oddly plastic tasting snacks and made our way into the cinema.

It’s at this point that I want to tell you that I had the single greatest cinema experience of my entire life. Sadly, as a purveyor of truth, I cannot.

I had heard from reliable sources that the opening sequence was awe inspiring and simply perfect, maybe it was these high expectations I felt like I was waiting for the life changing moment to begin. It revolves around a tour guide at a ‘haunted house’ that turns out to be really haunted. I’m not trying to say that it was bad, it was pretty good  actually and kinda creepy. I just wanted more from it, it didn’t blow me away.

Next we get introduced to Kristen Wiig’s character, Dr Erin Gilbert. A rather straight laced professor of physics who gets fired from here job at Columbia University. Consequently she has to visit her old schoolyard chum, Dr Abby Yates, an eccentric person who loves Chinese food, played by Melissa McCarthy. Unlike Erin, Abby did not give up on her search for ghosts and proof of life after death. In her search she recruited Dr Jillian Holtzman, (Kate McKinnen) who is pure eccentricity and my favourite of all the characters. The last ‘buster to be recruited is  Patty Tolan, a sassy black lady played by Leslie Jones.

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I must admit that my inner feminist loved seeing a group of four women doing some pretty kick ass moves, and investigating the various strange going on in New York without having a man to lead them in some way (it should come as no surprise that it passes the Bechdel test with flying colours) . The only man to really be a part of the gang is Chris Emsworth as Kevin Beckman, the well meaning, but somewhat simple and misguided secretary. I loved the role reversal of that character, and I must admit that Emsworth plays it brilliantly, often stealing the scene. I hope that this film helps to inspire young women and know that they too can be doctors of science and fight the bad guy without needing a man, and most importantly that she can be a complicated character that is worth so much more than window dressing for the men to stare at (Michael Bay, take note!)

That being said, the main plot involving a loner trying to bring about the end of New York with some kind of strange machines that bring ghosts out of… Ghost… world? failed to draw me in the way I would have liked. It works, I was interested as to what this strange chap was up to, and it kept my attention throughout, I never got bored. I just felt that the plot could sometimes be thrown out of the window in  favour of a neato set piece, and overall could have done with a bit of tightening. I felt at times as I was watching it that it needed more of a world building mythology, as we had with the original.

holtzmanThough the acting standard was good throughout, I felt that Wiig didn’t really give her all, she could have really sunk her teeth into the character and gone all out, and it fell just short of that, with McCartney occasionally joining her. Perhaps it was the requirement of a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate that meant their performances were toned down a little. Though it must be said, again, that it was really refreshing to have strong female characters with a complicated past and feelings. Holtzman was my favourite character, she was just the right amount of weird with a slight tinge of creepiness dashed in for good measure, she is the archetypal mad scientist and I loved her.

pattyThere are laughs to be had here, and I did titter throughout. for me though there were just not enough belly laughs, not enough smart insightful jokes peppered through to make me really think, it at times could be a little silly and puerile. Patty brings most of the good laughs and has some of the best lines. I did find Patty a little problematic at times, for a film full of individual women kicking ass, I felt that she could sometimes slip into a little of a black stereotype, luckily Jones brings lot of intelligence and brilliant humour to the character so they just about get away with it. If there were to be a sequel, I would like there to be a little more development of Patty.

One thing that was no lacking are the effects, they are perfect and manage to bring about a creepy and grossness without going too overboard. I also really liked how they seemed to invoke the style of the original, but they have taken it and improved upon it to make some truly stunning scenes. The end scenes where all hell breaks loose are so well done and the proton beams really look amazing.

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There are many references to the original, some that work well, like the effects, and others not so well. I’m sure others may disagree, but I felt that some certain cameos did not work for me. In a film about kick ass women these moments almost felt like they were getting permission from the men to make this movie, permission they do not need. The film works best when it stands on it’s own two feet and travels down it’s own path, to create something new and original, not just raking over old ground they desperately need to get away from.

This reboot of the Ghostbusters franchise has courted controversy from the moment it was announced, there has been a tirade of abuse from online trolls and misogynists who are under the misguided impression that women are incapable of being Ghostbusters. Whilst I do not believe this to  be a perfect film, I am pleased to say that it at least manages to put those notions to bed.

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The plot needed to be a little tighter, the comedy needed to be funnier and there needs to be less references to the 1984 classic.There are still great things here, the characters are kick ass, intelligent, individual and not dressed up in ridiculous, impracticable outfits, the effects are brilliant and you’ll have a rip roaring good time. It might not have blown me away the way I would have liked, but I still had a good time and you will too.

★★★☆☆

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Why I love Working Girl

Working Girl was a pretty big hit when it was first released, and even garnered itself six Oscar Nominations, including one win for Best Original Song. More recently though it seems to have been forgotten about a little. It rarely turns up in people’s top ten of all time ever favourite movies, and most younger people have never heard of it let alone seen it.

tess beforeWorking Girl is one of my very favourite films. It makes me sad that it seems to get little love these days. Maybe it’s because it’s a little cheesy in parts. Maybe the giant hair is a little too much and the shoulder pads too broad and pointy. Maybe it’s because it can be a little sentimental in places. Or maybe it’s because the title makes it sound like the dodgy bargain bin version of Pretty Woman.

For me these are all positive points, I love the 80sness of it all. I love the hokey ending, and the questionable fashion choices. It has some of the best lessons in feminism and women in the workplace whilst all being wrapped in a candy coated rom-com coating.

The film follows the story of Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), a go getting 30 year old woman. She worked hard a night school to get her degree, and probably knows more about the markets then the men she works for. She is desperate to make her way in the world of Wall Street, and will take any opportunity given to her, though these are few and far between and often a ‘business meeting’ organised by her boss turns out to be a hook up for his friend. After one such run in with Bob (Kevin Spacey) she humiliates her boss showing them she is not a forced to be reckoned with. She wants to get ahead, but she wants to do it on her own terms, not just because she slept with someone.

tess and kathAfter returning back to the office and humiliating the boss who set her up with Bob she gets re-assigned to work for Katherine Parker, who is delightfully over played by Sigourney Weaver. Weaver is able to play the supportive, yet underhanded boss very well, even if she occasionally veers off into Disney Villain territory.

Katherine appears to be the perfect boss, she listens to Tess and encourages her to come to her with ideas for their clients,with the promise of reward for hard work.

One day Tess comes to Katherine with an idea for a client to buy a radio station. Katherine appears to listen and take and interest. Though just before her departure to Europe on a skiing trip she informs Tess the idea was a no goer. The inevitable happens and Katherine breaks her leg whilst away, leaving Tess to look after her apartment until she can return.

Katherine represents everything Tess wants to be, elegant, poised, sophisticated, and, above all in power. So of course in an attempt to mimic her Tess goes through all of Katherine’s things, including her Dictaphone, which just so happens to contain a memo about Tess’ idea that Katherine has kept for herself.

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So it turns out Katherine was a massive lying dirt bag all along. Tess decides not to take this lying down, ‘cause she actually kicks ass. She sets up a meeting with Jack Trainer (the ever sexy Harrison Ford). The night before the big meeting Tess gets dolled up in Katherine’s finest clothes to attend a party where the famous Mr Trainer will also be in attendance.

He espies her across the room and tells her Jack Trainer just left before she got there, but she should totally have a tequila with him to make up for it. She ends up getting hammered, thanks in part to the Valium she had taken earlier to calm her nerves.

 

I love this scene, it’s all about how you can be an empowered woman who can handle business without having to give up your femininity and dress, as Jack Trainer himself puts it ‘ how a woman would think a man would dress if he was a woman’

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Together Tess and Jack pull together the deal with the client, and on the big meeting between the client and the radio station they are buying Katherine returns from Europe, and discovered Tess’ double-cross when she finds her diary that was left behind in her haste to leave and get to the meeting.

sigourney weaverKatherine manages to get dressed and down to the office where the negotiations are taking place and burst through the door like the wonderfully campy villain she is and kicks Tess out for lying and stealing her idea, all whilst flailing her crutches about. Though at the final meeting the truth prevails. Katherine gets her comeuppance and Tess gets her reward in a new job in a junior position with a new firm, as well as falling in love with Jack. 

On Tess’ first day in her new job she automatically places her things on the secretary’s desk, only to be told by the woman appearing from the fancy office that she is in fact the secretary and the office now belongs to Tess. As she does her introductions to her new employee she decides not to be like Katherine, and be a better boss and a better support.

alec baldwinThere are so many lessons to be learnt from Working Girl, you don’t need to pretend to be a man in order to fit in in places of business. You don’t need to sleep with someone to get ahead. It’s OK to get rid of unsupportive people in your life (At one point Tess finds her unsupportive boyfriend (Alec Baldwin) in bed with another woman, so she kicks him to the curb). It’s OK to be supportive to your friends with aspirations, Tess’ best friend, Cynthia (Joan Cusack, who also has the best ever New York accent and some of the highest hair I’ve ever seen) is always there for her, no matter what. Even joan cusackwhen she might not agree with Tess’s actions, she supports them and doesn’t judge her for wanting a career over her cheating boyfriend. Above all, it’s about how everyone should come together and supportive of each other in the workplace in order to achieve equality. We are a little closer to this goal nearly thirty years on, but with men still in the vast majority of positions of power we still have a way to go.

Yes, the production values are little dated. Yes, the fashion choices are questionable. Yes, it’s a little fluffy and things happen at the convenience of the plot. But this is a wonderful film, it’s hard not to get swept up with Tess’ ambitions and fight to be taken seriously in a world dominated by men. She refuses to give up her morals for the sake of getting ahead. She is truly a feminist hero and a great inspiration for any young woman wanting to enter big business.