I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this Japanese remake of Ghost even more than the original Hollywood version. One of the problems with the original is that it could never quite decide what genre it wanted to be. Most people think of Ghost as a romance; however, since Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore's characters were already an established couple, just moving in together at the film's start, there wasn't a tremendous amount of romance in their relationship, despite the famous pottery scene. The villains were dark enough to suggest this movie really wanted to be a thriller, complete with a high-stakes heist. Whoopi Goldberg's performance as the con artist-turned-real psychic was hilarious enough to garner her an Oscar, yet her over-the-top comedy completely broke the mood. By shoving together the elements of a romance, thriller, and comedy in ways that grated against, rather than complemented each other, the final product was a confused muddle.
The remake falls much more solidly into the romance category, starting when the couple first meets. There is a gender reversal from the original; Nanami is the high-powered businesswoman, Juno the sensitive male potter, and it works well, providing a more modern feel. We get to see them fall in love, and watch as the unique moments they share – which will later become "tells" for Nanami as a ghost – are created. This makes these moments much more powerful for the audience and enhances the emotional punch of the couple's separation and longing for each other. While the Japanese version showed more restraint with the love scene (staying at a PG rating rather than the PG-13 of the American version), don't mistake modesty for lack of passion. The pottery scene in this one is every bit as affecting as the original, and far more tender.
Several other changes help minimize distraction from the romance. The original version showed Swayze being reluctantly mentored by an unhinged spirit from the subway whose violence was senseless and disjointed from the rest of the film. The Japanese version uses a small child Nanami meets in the hospital; not only is this more logical, this character also ties in beautifully with Juno's decision in the climax of the film. The psychic is still eccentric and amusing, but she never steals the show away from the leads. Also the fate of the missing funds in the American version is dropped completely, replaced with a dramatic conclusion that provides much more emotional resonance. I found this version of Ghost to be more enchanting and satisfying overall than the original, so it's one film that I'm glad they remade!
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