We all have a few skeletons in our closets, don’t we? Or in this case, let’s call them ghosts; people (including romantic interests) we have abruptly stopped responding to hoping they’d just disappear without a confrontation.
In actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher’s spy rom-com “Ghosted”—a cookie-cutter but adequately fun flick that could’ve used some sharpening up on the page—Sadie Rhodes (Ana de Armas) has countless ghosts in her past, and not just the romantic kind. Posing as an art curator but working as a deadly and powerful CIA spy, Sadie simply doesn’t have the time to keep those ghosts alive and well. So, where could her fiery one-night-stand possibly go with Chris Evans’ wholesome Cole, a modest East Coast farmer who still lives at home and has never even left the country before?
Rest assured, the quartet of screenwriters Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick come up with plenty of overcrowded ideas around how a romance between a sophisticated globe-trotter and humble country boy could evolve. But having fashioned various overloaded “Spiderman,” “Deadpool” and “Ant-Man” movies amongst them, the scribes don’t seem to have an effortless handle on the screwball dialogue to make “Ghosted” feel leaner and lighter on its feet. Thankfully, they’ve got a pair of savvy movie stars as the leads who can salvage even the clunkiest and most unimaginative of verbal comebacks written for them, some of which are as empty as “You’re unbelievable!”
Their customary meet-cute happens at a hipster farm stand outside of DC. Having just confronted the death of a close friend and co-worker (an incident she might have caused), Sadie is in need of some R&R, and perhaps a little houseplant whose wellbeing she can commit to. Enter Cole, who refuses to sell her a pretty pot of flowers upon learning that Sadie travels often and can’t keep up with the maintenance the beautiful flora requires.
After much bickering that brews with some laboriously written sexual tension (everyone continuously tells them to “get a room” in order to convince the audience that there is tension here), Cole wonders whether Sadie should consider a cactus instead. Somehow the duo finds themselves on an overnight date that spans across river-walks, cafes, museums and eventually, Sadie’s bedsheets.
While their deepest banter during this mini “Before Sunrise” movie sounds like, “OMG, I love Monet,” you naturally still root for the union of two of the most gorgeous movie stars on the planet and feel the disappointment on Cole’s behalf when his dozens of desperate text messages (with some painfully cute emojis) receive no response from Sadie.
“Ghosted” knows that every old-fashioned romance comes with a dose of stalking, and there is a lot of humor in the well-meaning Cole taking that a bridge too far, following Sadie all the way to the London Bridge. (Don’t ask how he locates her—it’s completely ridiculous.) Having discernible fun with his evil “bad guy” part, Adrian Brody makes a quick entrance in this segment as the notorious arms dealer Leveque with a special interest in torturing his opponents with deadly bugs.
There is a mysterious weapon called Aztec, a secret passcode to unlock it and an enigmatic operative everyone refers to as “The Taxman” who is said to have this code. Naturally, Sadie is the real Taxman. (Don’t worry, you will hear the Beatles song at some point.) Predictably, Leveque and his goons think it’s Cole.
Once the story gets going in earnest, it whisks the viewer away to Afghanistan, Pakistan, a desert island and back to the US. And Fletcher finally gets on board with the speed that “Ghosted” requires, reminding us of his knack for pacing crafty set pieces that his fantastical Elton John biopic “Rocketman” also possessed. In that regard, expect to be entertained in the old-fashioned sense throughout a cliffside van ride that leaves multiple dead bodies in its wake, a parachute jump and various other cat-and-mouse chase scenes that play like a poor man’s “Mission: Impossible” movie and rely a bit too heavily on slow-motion shots.
But, again, the leads sell it vivaciously. It’s a relief that de Armas never leans into the cliched “strong badass female” trope too much. Instead, her Sadie moves and fights believably in the way you’d expect from a woman with her petit frame. And Evans manages to maintain Cole’s disarming fish-out-of-water cluelessness throughout.
Joining the leads in other memorable roles are Tate Donovan, Amy Sedaris and Lizze Broadway as Cole’s family, the great Tim Blake Nelson as a certified baddie and a chain of high-profile cameos this critic has no intention to spoil. Sure, “Ghosted” feels mostly awkward, but everyone seems to be in on the joke for some shameless fun. And that’s all you might get from this movie, a little pick-me-up before you ghost it forever.
“Ghosted” streams on Apple TV+ April 21st.