Meet the Hanslick Girls: Gwen, Eleanor and Dania. Created by writer Zach Barr, they are a trio of Northwestern students who always go to see plays and movies together. They may not have the same opinions, but their conversations tend to make for an entertaining read. Recently, the Girls saw the 2016 remake of “Ghostbusters.” Let’s hear what they had to say about the divisive film…
On the drive over to the theatre, Gwen had only one thought on her mind: I have never seen the original Ghostbusters movie. As someone who always had very strong opinions on things, she realized that it was a notable omission from her cultural knowledge. She had originally planned to watch it alone at some point before this new version came out, but time had caught up to her, other things had taken greater importance, and, well, here they were. In the back of the car, Eleanor was singing the theme song, while Dania, sitting shotgun, was singing along with the instrumental parts. Both of them had been awaiting the movie for months – if not years, if only hypothetically – and both had convinced Gwen that opening night was the right time to go.
The reviews, which Gwen had skimmed over, had praised the movie generally, with each critic holding their own personal gripes here and there. The internet, as it is wont to do, had exploded over the movie for every possible misdemeanor, no matter how small. From being a remake, to having terrible special effects, to containing too many references to the original, for containing female characters, and so on. Gwen had tried to put them all out of her mind for this movie – after all, having never seen the original put her in the interesting position of not comparing the film to anything else. So she went into the theatre with fresh hopes that the film would impress her.
Two hours later, the credits faded up on a post-credits scene.
“I knew it,” Eleanor said. “I knew there was going to be another scene.”
“Shhh,” Dania said, her eyes glued to the screen.
The three girls watched in silence as the film continued on for another minute. When Leslie Jones said the final line of the film, the audience collectively gasped and laughed. Gwen’s brow furrowed in confusion as the lights in the theatre rose.
“What was that?” Gwen said, in reference to the final line.
“It’s from the original film, remember?” Dania said. She looked at Gwen inquisitively.
“Oh. Right, right,” Gwen played it off.
“Man,” Dania said, standing up and stretching. “Man, that was good.” Catching herself, Dania repeated, “Wo-man, that was good.”
“I’ll talk more when we get to the car,” Eleanor said. “But I liked it.”
“There’s no 100-foot rule for movies,” Gwen said, as they walked out of the theatre. “No one is standing around to hear what you’re saying.”
“I know,” Eleanor said. “I just need to collect my thoughts after that.”
Gwen silently mused on Eleanor’s reaction as they exited the theatre. She had liked the film fine, finding it very clever in the writing and including a twist or two she hadn’t expected. All the leading actresses had impressed her – well, most of them, at least – and, on the whole, she was ready to give the film her recommendation if asked. But what had made Eleanor reserve judgement? Was it the spectre of the original film lingering over the whole affair? Or was there something more to her hesitation to say what she thought?
At any rate, as they exited the theatre and began the walk back to the car, Dania was nearly bouncing off the walls.
“I thought that was awesome,” Dania said. The words flew out of her mouth in rapid succession, with only token pauses for breath. “It was funny, and the ghosts looked totally cool, and all the fight scenes looked like they were really happening, like the effects were impressive compared to the original.”
“The original didn’t have bad effects,” Gwen said, taking a gamble to feign knowledge of the original.
“Yeah,” Dania said, not missing a beat. “But what they can do now with making them all transparent and the new fighting technology – Melissa McCarthy punches a ghost! She punches ghosts!”
“I thought…hm.” Eleanor started, but caught herself. Something was sitting heavy on her mind, and both Gwen and Dania could tell, though neither prodded her to explain.
“All of the leading ladies were super fierce,” Dania continued. “Especially Kate McKinnon. She was the best part of the entire movie. I love her. She’s my mom.”
“I liked Melissa McCarthy more,” Gwen said. “I thought she had more of a serious outlook on the plot and the stakes. I liked McKinnon a lot, but I felt like she was playing it all for comedy, rather than having moments of humor.”
“But it’s a comedy,” Dania said. “Don’t you want humor?”
“Not always,” Gwen said. “It’s the Airplane principle: you want the tone to be serious while the film still has jokes written in. It’s the best way to do satire.”
“But it’s not trying to be satire,” Eleanor said, finally joining just as they reached Dania’s car.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, what is it satirizing?”
“It’s not strictly the rules of satire,” Gwen said. “It’s just a different style of comedy. I liked the girls individually but I thought they were all kind of in different movies.”
“Sure. Whatever movie Holtzman was in was the movie I want to watch,” Dania said.
Gwen jokingly rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t surprise me.”
“Hey, what if I just drove out of here like the Ghostbusters car in the movie?” Dania said, revving the engine. “Like, we just barrel out of the parking lot and…”
“How about not?” Eleanor said, buckling in. “Let’s be safe.”
“Meh.” Dania took her foot off the engine for a moment. “Gwen, get in the car!”
“Sorry.” Gwen had been standing outside the door, motionless, trying to place each Ghostbuster in their respective movies, in the context of her earlier comment. Getting in the car, she conceded that the specific films didn’t matter, and dropped the metaphor.
“Okay, Eleanor,” Gwen said as she closed the car door. “What did you think?”
“It…was…” Eleanor struggled for thoughts. She had been walking a very narrow tightrope in her mind for the entire time they had been walking back. If only Dania had parked the car just a little further away…
Eleanor looked up.
“What did you think of the movie?”
“I…there were parts of it that were really good.” She paused. Seeing that Gwen and Dania were not mollified, she continued. “And other parts that were not very good.”
“Eleanor, we’re not leaving until you say whether you liked it or not,” Dania said. She put the car in Park as she spoke.
Eleanor’s head fell back, into the soft cushion of the car seat.
“I don’t know!” she groaned. “I’m trying to think about it compared to the original film, but there’s so many things that are better but also things that aren’t as good, and I don’t know which one I like more.” She grumbled and collapsed into the seat.
“You don’t have to like one more than the other,” Gwen said, placing a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “You can like them both.”
“But it’s not just that,” Eleanor said. “It’s like…my enjoyment of this one is dependent on my opinion about the older one. And I don’t know…”
“Okay, bottom line,” Dania said, turning around in the driver’s seat to face Eleanor head on. “Did you have fun?”
Eleanor thought. “I mean…yeah?”
“Then we’re good,” Dania concluded, and put the car in Reverse to leave the lot.
“But there’s other stuff that doesn’t work in it,” Eleanor said. “I didn’t like Kristin Wiig very much, for one.”
“What? Why not?” Gwen asked. In her mind, Wiig had played an appealing straight (wo)man to the ridiculous antics of the world around her.
“I just found her kind of boring,” Eleanor said. “It’s like, having one character who isn’t totally down with the whole “ghostbusting” concept at the start seems like a weird hurdle to get over. In the original, when all three of them were on board as ghost hunters, it was about proving that what they were trying to find was correct, not about trying to make sure they’re all in support of it.”
“Maybe,” Gwen said, “but I actually liked the introduction of a secondary conflict. The dual pathways for Erin and Abby between ‘legitimate’ science and ‘ghost’ science brought up an interesting acknowledgement of the outside world’s opinion on what they were doing, which tied into the later conflicts with the mayor and the government. Plus, she does get to freak out with the others when they are in the midst of catching ghosts. It’s only in the slower scenes that she gets separated.”
“But why separate her at all?” Eleanor asked. “Why not just have them all together as a group once Leslie Jones joins?”
“Leslie Jones is the best!” Dania interjected, from the front. “I love that she just doesn’t take anyone’s shit. Also her reactions are basically my reactions.”
“I did enjoy that the closest thing to an ‘everyman’ character was a woman of color,” Gwen said. “But yes, she was very, very funny in the movie. The scene in the theatre with the demon was brilliantly timed out.”
“I did enjoy that,” Eleanor said. “Even if it was basically the same as the hotel scene in the first movie.”
“It’s a remake,” Gwen said. “Aren’t things going to resemble other things?”
“Not entirely,” Eleanor said. “I don’t want a moment-for-moment repeat of the original.”
“But you don’t want it to be too different?” Gwen asked.
“And that’s the problem,” Eleanor said, putting a finger to her temple and looking at the ground.
“I liked it just as much as the original,” Dania said. “Sure, it’s not perfect, but whatever. It’s still functional and good and I enjoy watching it.”
“I do recognize some issues about it overall,” Gwen said. “The jokes are kind of hit and miss, especially when it’s trying to be funny. Kate McKinnon is a good example. She’s really funny, but sometimes it’s a little too “wacky for the sake of wacky,” at least for my tastes.”
“I guess,” Dania said, unconvinced.
“But it’s subjective, obviously. And the animation for some of the ghosts…well, all of the ghosts, is pretty crazy and unrealistically designed…”
Eleanor looked up. “Are you really going to critique Ghostbusters for unrealistic ghost design?”
“…But – let me finish – because the whole movie is that over the top, it doesn’t bother me. The biggest boon of the entire film is that it’s all internally consistent. Nothing feels out of place or purely thrown in to please the fans or sell tickets. It’s a movie first, beyond just being a cash-grab for the Ghostbusters franchise.”
“Yes, definitely,” Dania said. “I’m just glad it doesn’t suck.”
“There you go, Eleanor,” Gwen said. “You can absolutely enjoy that it doesn’t suck.”
“I mean, you’re not wrong,” Eleanor said. “It’s only when I compare it to the original that I get all caught up on what’s right or wrong with it. It’s still not awful. And it could have been awful.”
“The pacing is actually really good, now that I think about it,” Gwen continued. “I kind of predicted the plot at the outset, but it still took turns I wasn’t expecting.”
“And the Melissa McCarthy possession scene?” Dania asked.
All three girls perked up.
“That was fantastic,” Eleanor said, smiling. “I can agree that that scene was awesome. For sure.”
“And Chris Hemsworth. Mmm.” Dania leaned back in her seat.
“Yeah, keep your eyes on the road,” Gwen said. “Don’t let them cloud too much.”
“He was very funny,” Eleanor said. “And it’s nice that they swapped the gender of the receptionist as well.”
“Though I will say,” Gwen added, “it’s strange that he had so much to do, versus a more passive female role in the original film. Like, they made the secretary male, and then gave him a bunch of the funniest jokes that the original female secretary didn’t get.”
“The original secretary had a lot of the funniest material too,” Eleanor said.
“But did she get to show up in the climax as…”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it,” Eleanor said, anticipating the moment Gwen was referring to. “He does more. But it’s still nice that the gender is swapped.”
“Anyway,” Gwen continued. “I don’t have a lot of criticism to throw at it, and what little I do have isn’t enough to keep me from really liking the movie. It works, it’s funny, and I enjoy watching it.”
“I feel like…” Eleanor said, trying to piece the words together. “Looking at all the reactions the movie is getting, from people who like it and people who really don’t like it…”
“What, the Men’s Rights Activists?” Dania said. “The people who hated Mad Max: Fury Road?”
Eleanor sighed. “Yes, those people. But their opinions generally fade, but people who like it will continue talking about it. I think it will slowly gain the wider appeal of the original.”
“But the original is a classic, right?” Gwen said. She silently hesitated after saying it, hopeful that Eleanor wouldn’t ask her to qualify her assertion. But she was safe.
“It’s a classic, but it’s not perfect,” Eleanor said. “People who grew up watching it love it, and people who grow up watching this one will love this one. And kids can still grow up watching both.”
“Right, they embolden each other,” Gwen said. “There doesn’t have to be a better and a worse one. And the new one is a well-crafted and entertaining movie, even if it won’t change the world of cinema as we know it.”
“What does?” Dania asked.
“I just hope it means more film roles for Kate McKinnon,” Gwen said.
“And Leslie Jones!” Dania eagerly added. For her own amusement, she took the next turn around the corner a little fast, imagining the white logo of a ghost plastered to the side of her car, and the engineering equivalent of an atom bomb strapped to the car roof.