April 22, 1991 [Mortal Thoughts]

I can’t decide who was cuter in Ghost last summer: Patrick Swayze or Demi Moore--or maybe Whoopi Goldberg, who just shows up and takes over for a while.

OK: Demi Moore. There’s something about the broad expanse of her square face that encourages me, more or less. It’s not the face of a cheerleader but an athlete, softball, maybe, cute but with a wicked arm. And I’m not sure, but it seems she blinks less than average, and achieves something between a level gaze and a middle-distance rumination. She’s almost bland, but she doesn’t let that stop her. Even as a ghost, one continues to follow her.

--At least I’m willing to. And she and Alan Rudolph reward my wayward affection with Mortal Thoughts. She slathers on that accent and enters a one-sided Rashomon, an entire film dedicated to Cynthia’s ability to tell a story. It’s a good story, and much is invested in telling it--but Rudolph doesn’t care if it’s true: like his earlier picture, Trouble in Mind, it’s what’s inside that counts. Cynthia’s thoughts are so focused on mortality that she wills the movie to see things her way, as veiled--shrouded?--as that may be. And not even Bruce Willis, barreling through the picture somewhere in the vicinity of Jake LaMotta, or Glenne Headly as Willis’ almost-as-tough wife--man, not even Harvey Keitel having the time of his life as an interrogating cop, bearing down with those little x-ray eyes while a piece of gum rolls around in his mouth like the last poor slob he cracked like an eggshell--nobody can rewrite Cynthia’s story. Except maybe Moore herself, who grabs hold of Cynthia’s nape and makes sure she never stops talking into the camera. It’s Scheherazade with only one night left and a mystery at the end: Did we see the truth? Have we even seen the story itself? Whose story was it, anyway, and why does it seem the movie starts again, just to tell us to go home--but to take the blame with us? Bloody handprints are passed along to everyone in the picture until the hand reaches out of the screen like some William Castle scare-gimmick to leave a little smear on my forehead.


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