Tensions flare and hilarity ensues at the Reynolds household, when a dinner—called on the occasion of the family dog’s birthday—erupts into ego-bruising jabs at the expense of Clara, the seemingly docile mother who’s been shocked to life by a recent encounter with a ghost. Director and MdFF Opening Night alum Bridey Elliott casts her actual kin in the dysfunctional family meta-comedy. While her father Chris Elliott (Groundhog Day) and sister Abby Elliott (SNL) are names that ring familiar, it’s Bridey’s mother Paula who takes center stage, showcasing a secret well of deadpan genius from the only face not familiar to the screen.
Clara’s hilariously aloof, infinitely relatable, and most importantly: nothing like the rest of the self-absorbed flock. Her husband Ted’s waning fame is getting the better of him. He’s escaped to Connecticut with Clara, but the wounds of irrelevance are torn back open when their child-star daughters come into town. Julie is a cut-throat careerist, while Riley is content to exploit her has-been status. All together they’re a blaring cacophony of toxic egoism and bitter sarcasm. On this night, while the trio is busy with their absurdly trivial arguments, Clara fraternizes with the neighbor boy Joe (Haley Joel Osment) and embraces her sinister side… whilst enjoying hefty amounts of wine and vodka.
Coming off its world premiere at Sundance, Clara’s Ghost is a darkly comic meditation on vanity and strained family dynamics, showing notes of the anxiety-soaked quips of Albert Brooks’ Modern Romance, refreshingly updated for the rhetoric of 2018. (Mitchell Goodrich)
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