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Clara’s Ghost review: Elliott family values | Sundance

The titular ghost (Isidora Goreshter) in Clara’s Ghost. Pic: Sundance Institute/ Markus Mentzer

If you expect a movie starring the Elliott family and directed by Bridey Elliott to be a wacky laugh riot, then you really aren’t familiar with the truly weird Elliott creations.

Sure, they’ve been on SNL and Silicon Valley, but the ones Chris Elliott wrote and created were Get a Life and Cabin Boy. His daughter took a moder nwoman’s extrapolation of that kind of weird comedy.

The Reynolds family gather in a remote home months away from one of their daughter’s wedding. Ted Reynolds (Chris Elliott) is a TV star now struggling with the modern world of young writers and web platforms.

His daughters Julie (Abby Elliott) and Riley (Bridey Elliott) were child stars on a sitcom for which they’re still known. Their mother Clara (Paula Niedert Elliott) seems to take a backseat to showbiz stuff, but she becomes unhinged over the weekend planning Julie’s wedding.

There seem to be some real issues Bridey Elliott is working through with this script, though they don’t seem to apply directly to the Elliott family. Abby and Bridey were not child stars. Chris Elliott is in a fourth season of Schitt’s Creek. I cannot confirm or refute whether Paula Elliott has seen a ghost.

The more drugs and alcohol become involved, the more the Reynolds family reveal their own, and each other’s career foibles. There’ve been false starts on modern platforms like ebooks and kickstarter. Ted keeps badmouthing the young writer with whom he really needs to get along.

They mock each other mercilessly, which can be funny but is so biting I hope you also feel a little bad for laughing. Then they get high and laugh at nonsense.

The ghost (Isidora Goreshter) pushes Clara to assert herself more, though there are enough scenes of Clara dancing to music that isn’t there that one wonders how positive an influence she is.

There may be a jump scare or two, but I wouldn’t say Clara’s Ghost is a spooky comedy. It is a family dramedy first and foremost, which happens to star a real life showbiz comedy family.

I liked getting to know Bridey and Paula Elliott more, and see Chris and Abby in their element. I happen to agree with a number of things the characters say about web content, though I might put it more tactfully (and therefore I’d be less funny).

Put it this way, as Sundance ghost stories go, Clara’s Ghost is WAY funnier than A Ghost Story.

Clara’s Ghost premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. 


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