Writer/director Parker Ellerman wonders what it might be like if James Dean were to meet Donald Turnupseed, the man who caused Dean’s untimely death, 56 years after the movie stars life was tragically snuffed out in a traffic accident. What might these two men have to say to each other? Would there be anger? Resentment? A taste for revenge? Well, apparently they really don’t have much to say, in Ellerman’s estimation, as the beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and ultimately lacking short film “Two Friendly Ghosts” is a cool idea executed blandly.
Ellerman has done a fantastic job in making this film. While I’m no expert on the death of Dean, I’d venture a guess the film was shot at the location where his demise occurred and the car used looks to be a perfect recreation of Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder. As the two men meet we see Dean (Cole Carson) as the idealized, iconic figure we always think of with wavy hair, jeans and a red jacket. Turnupseed (Howard S. Miller) is aged and haggard. While he survived the accident, it’s clear his unintentional killing of an icon has wore on him, thus is the reason for their meeting nearly 60 years later. But when the two get to talking, it’s akin to small talk or a shrug of a conversation which is actually kind of painful considering the generally well-done film.
Miller’s Turnupseed does the bulk of the talking, as well as the heavy lifting in terms of acting, and he’s excellent. He has large, expressive eyes that shine out through a classic older man’s wrinkled face. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen Miller before but he has a real everyman character actor look and feel and he’s really great here. Carson as Dean does what he needs to do which is look sexy and cool. While not a dead ringer for Dean, he still manages to capture the classic feel of James Dean. “Two Friendly Ghosts” is painstakingly recreated, well-acted and shot very well. So, why didn’t I like it?
To be blunt; with all this hard work put in, why not make a script that’s insightful, interesting or fun? Heck, why not take it another direction and make it something the audience never even thought of? While “Two Friendly Ghosts” isn’t awful, it just could have been so much better had the filmmaker thought of something intriguing to say. And it should be much better considering the top-notch effort and execution put forth. It’s clear Ellerman has a great eye for production design and directing but it’s also clear a more interesting script here could have made for a special short film that sticks with you long after it’s over.
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