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There’s only one right way to watch Apple’s Ghosted

Chris Evans and Ana de Armas’ Knives Out reunion needed different marketing

Chris Evans lies in the back of a truck, filthy and with his hands tied together with red and black wires, wearing a gag made out of a sweatband shoved into his mouth and a thick rope securing it. This is not meant to illustrate the best way to watch Ghosted, but it isn’t the worst way, either. Photo: Apple TV Plus
Tasha Robinson leads Polygon’s movie coverage. She’s covered film, TV, books, and more for 20 years, including at The A.V. Club, The Dissolve, and The Verge.

Ghosted, the third film co-starring Chris Evans and Ana de Armas (after Knives Out and The Grey Man), is a featherweight movie. The fact that it’s slick, slight, and frequently ridiculous isn’t necessarily a problem, any more than it was a problem for The Lost City or Bullet Train — it’s an easy evening’s entertainment, a casual brain-relaxer that doesn’t require anything out of the audience except complete intellectual remove and a thorough willingness to set reality aside for a couple of hours. But there’s only one right way to watch it, and most people won’t, because it isn’t exactly easy to do. The best way to enjoy Ghosted is to go in completely blind.

One of the things that makes Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher’s action rom-com so light is that there are barely any twists or surprises to the thing. The biggest one comes in the first act, and it’s baked into the premise of the movie — it’s in every description of the film, and even in its tagline. And it’s something that’s far better discovered by watching the movie than by reading about it ahead of time. Much like the big reveal about the villain of Terminator 2, the one twist in Ghosted was spoiled in the marketing materials from the beginning, which is unfortunate, given how clearly the movie was designed to conceal it and reveal it at the proper moment for maximum impact.

Cole (Chris Evans) and Sadie (Ana de Armas) lean in for a kiss at magic hour, a sunset lake behind them in the background in Ghosted Photo: Frank Masi/Apple TV Plus

For viewers who’ve managed to stay unspoiled, it’s enough to say that the movie centers on two people — Cole (Chris Evans) and Sadie (Ana de Armas) — who meet at a farmer’s market, have an unpleasantly waspish conversation that doesn’t register as flirting until someone else explains that they were flirting, and then go on a much more pleasant Before Sunrise/Rye Lane-style extended walk-and-talk date. After that, they find out more about each other than they bargained for, and their banter goes back to sour and snarky for most of the film, between noisy, often clumsy CG-assisted action sequences.

To the degree that anyone’s going to be talking about Ghosted a week from now, it’ll probably be about the snide, scoldy aspects of Cole and Sadie’s relationship, which the four-man screenwriting team — Deadpool and Spiderhead writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and Tom Holland Spider-Man trilogy writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers — seem to hope will play as adorably edgy. (Ha ha, these two pretty people really loathe each other, to the point of gaslighting, manipulating, and verbally assaulting each other! So cute! They’re definitely going to end up together!) Instead, it becomes a weird game of “Who’s more wrong in this scene?”

It’s hard to take sides in this particular face-off, given how the central couple is portrayed. Cole, easily one of the least convincing movie farmers to ever humbly man a farmers-market organic greens stall, is utterly under the sway of his weirdly over-involved family (Tate Donovan and Amy Sedaris as his parents, Lizze Broadway as his way-too-up-in-his-love-life teenage sister). He’s also needy, pushy, whiny, prone to terrible decisions, and full of excuses for all of the above. Sadie, for her part, is a collection of sharp-tongued contradictions that barely add up to a coherent character. The fact that they both accurately and insightfully recognize each other’s flaws and call them out doesn’t make them any more appealing — if anything, it’s a little embarrassing that they both immediately see each other so clearly.

Extremely French bad guy Leveque (Adrien Brody) looms over his underling Wagner (Mike Moh) in Ghosted Photo: Frank Masi/Apple TV Plus

The movie’s saving grace is that none of this is presented as particularly consequential, or meant to be taken at face value. A Wilhelm scream in the movie’s first major action sequence is a tipoff that the filmmakers think it’s all pretty goofy. So is a moment Reese and Wernick essentially crib from themselves from the opening of the first Deadpool, where a generic mook, separated from his vehicle and flying through the air to his imminent death, drops into ultra slow-mo in order to make wide-eyed, desperate eye contact with Cole. So is Adrien Brody’s ovair-zee-top Fronch accsont as Leveque, the movie’s main baddie. This is a rom-com, formulaic and comforting and breezy, with some action trappings, but with no expectations that anyone needs to care about the results of that action.

Instead, Ghosted fills in the space with amiable mugging, as de Armas spin-kicks and shoots her way through sequence after sequence, while Evans seems to be having a blast playing the hapless tagalong. (“I swallowed a rock,” he moans after one rough tumble down a hill.) The film also fills the space with cameos — another reason to go into the movie blind, so every familiar face popping up can be a surprise. At times, the movie plays like a class reunion with a loose narrative, a dynamic that adds to the breeziness without messing with the film’s already-dubious reality.

Yes, there are plenty of reasons people might not want to engage with a film this lackadaisical, this tongue-in-cheek ironic, this uncommitted to its own weight. That’s all the more reason for anyone who does want to watch it to go in unburdened by expectations. There isn’t a lot to Ghosted, apart from watching some charismatic actors monkey around with their images in comedically enjoyable ways, while playing fetch-the-McGuffin across a thin and implausible storyline. They all seem to have shown up as if this was a casual playdate, a fun time that they didn’t need to prep and plan for in advance. Viewers will enjoy Ghosted more if they take the same approach.

Ghosted is now streaming on Apple TV Plus.