I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
It is beyond an absolute pleasure to discover that, 20-plus years into this film-criticism racket, I can still discover that a movie can inject itself right into my nerd gland in a way that movies used to do when I was a kid. Irish fantasy comedy Extra Ordinary did that in the same way that, oh, Buckaroo Banzai and Ghostbusters got to me as a teenager in the 1980s, tickling me with the goofy thrill of realizing that I was not the only weirdo in the world who finds it especially hilarious, often in a way that defies description, that the monotonous and the miraculous are solid BFFs. Indeed, that the monotonous and the miraculous need each other in order for either of them to make any sense at all.
This, the first feature from writer-directors Mike Ahern and Enda Loughman, is incredibly original even while it draws on a long legacy of dry geeky humor. I laughed out loud continually on my first watch, during which I told myself, “[Particular bit of nonsense cleverness] will never not be funny,” and found that, yup, on my second go-around, I was right. The characters here are people that immediately feel not only like real people, but like real people whom you know, whom you have no doubt you would click with and end up great friends with.
I mean: Rose, our heroine, a driving instructor in rural Ireland. I’m madly in love with her gentleness and her wit and her supreme self-confidence, which is so easy she might not even be aware of it. Comic Maeve Higgins, whom I now adore, immediately renders Rose as achingly authentic. Achingly as in poignantly, but also achingly as in side-splittingly funny — usually at the same time, in her approach to life as a single woman of a certain age living alone and just trying to get through the day while besieged by people who won’t leave her alone. And also by ghosts who won’t leave her alone. She can talk to the dead, you see, though she’d rather not. Because she doesn’t have a great track record when it comes to communing with those who’ve passed on. (It has to do with her issues with her long-dead father [Risteard Cooper: Batman Begins], who could also speak to ghosts, and whom we meet via Scarfolk Council–esque VHS flashbacks.) But also the dead really don’t have anything interesting to say. They don’t even ghost interestingly. Turns out the supernatural is mostly about possessed potholes and haunted toasters. *yawn*
Oh the mundanity of it all! The very specific ways in which Martin (Barry Ward) — simultaneously an unremarkable yet unforgettable charmer — is being tormented by the spirit of his dead wife could not be more… domestic. Rose won’t help Martin with that particular poltergeist, but she does get sucked into trying to rescue his teenaged daughter, Sarah (Emma Coleman), who is in more dire paranormal straits. One-hit-wonder rock star Christian Winter (Will Forte: Good Boys, Booksmart) has cast a spell on Sarah as part of a deal with the Devil in order to secure a comeback. As you do. And this requires the sacrifice of a virgin. As you’d expect.
Also: Martin is kinda cute and apparently single, so there’s that, too. But hanging out with a new guy isn’t usually this eerie or as full of “unnecessarily gross” ectoplasm.
Ghostbusters is the obvious antecedent to Extra Ordinary, and that classic gets several callouts that are, like everything else here, sly, sharp, and snarkily underplayed. (There will be an Oscar Wilde reference. This is a very Irish sort of comedy.) But this instant little masterpiece, while as occasionally shockingly horrific as it is continuously shockingly funny, also shares a tender spirit — no pun intended — with paranormal romance Truly Madly Deeply, in its tragic melodrama about how the grief of losing someone eventually morphs into the grief of moving on from that initial grief. It makes for an emotional roller coaster ride of workaday yet wondrous proportions.
Extra Ordinary is available on demand in the US via Amazon, iTunes, etc, as well as via Kino Marquee, which supports local arthouse cinemas during the coronavirus lockdown.
Extra Ordinary is available on demand in the UK via Amazon, iTunes, etc, and is also streaming on Netflix.