Hang on. Give me a second to unstick my eyeballs from the back of their sockets. Phew. That’s better. For my eyes at least. Sadly, nothing is going to save Ghosted (2023) from itself. Look, it’s my chosen vocation to watch a lot of mediocre movies, and most of the time I enjoy the heck out of them. If you’ve been here before you know I don’t waste time complaining about well-worn cliches or predictability because that’s part and parcel of the genre. But! This action-comedy-romance really tested the limits of my patience (and the depth of eye sockets). I mean, it’s like they weren’t even trying to pull together a sensical, fun, romp of a movie. They were, however, really focused on mushing in as much sexism into the plot as possible. Good times, right? Let’s dig in.
After the death of a colleague, Sadie Rhodes (Ana de Armas) is taking some time to herself to commune with nature somewhere outside of Washington, DC. On the way home, she stops by a farmer’s market where she runs into Cole (Chris Evans), a farmer who is fresh from a break up, which he swears was mutual (his friends swear he’s needy). Cole is tending to his friend Edna’s (Victoria Kelleher) plant stall while she gets high, and he and Sadie end up sparring about whether or not she should buy a begonia given her rigorous travel schedule as an international art curator. He says something about how the plant is “pretty and slightly toxic” just like his exes, and boy would I like to heave this joke straight into the Potomac. She asks if there’s something less “needy” and Cole seems to take offense, offering that she could get a plastic plant instead, to which she takes offense. He eventually offers a cactus, saying they need “the bare minimum of love a human can give, so you’ll totally kill it.” Obviously, they’re not really talking about plants. Anyway, against my better judgment, these two end up going out. Edna basically has to spell it out for Cole that there was a lot of sexual tension between them, which is an interesting approach to dating. They spend the rest of day and then night together, talking, sharing secrets, racing each other up the Exorcist stairs (ah, romance), and, eventually, getting naked. Before we go any further can I just point out that Sadie shows up at the farmer’s market in a car that is mud splattered and has a kayak tied to the roof, having just told someone she needed time in the mountains, and yet she’s scrubbed clean and is wearing a cute dress and espadrilles. What? Was she gone for the weekend? Did she change in the car? Then, later, she switches from wearing a sweater to a leather jacket and boots, which could not have fit in her tiny backpack. Is she taking the time to go back to the car to make wardrobe changes part way through their impromptu date? It seems so unlikely and odd and frankly out of character. It’s like the people involved were like, Continuity? Never heard of it. Don’t care to meet it. There are few key plot points that come of this evening: Sadie claims she chooses not to be afraid of anything. She’s independent and free, but probably purposely cuts herself off from emotional relationships. Cole is intelligent and a deep thinker, but has stayed home to help his family on the farm and probably uses that to insulate himself against exploring the wider world. Cole loses things a lot and therefore puts Apple tags (or the equivalent) on them. Like, for example, his inhaler, which he uses only when convenient to the plot. Again, continu-what?
After they go their separate ways, Cole goes home and tells his family how he really thinks she might be “the one.” He promises that he hasn’t texted her much, but really he has texted her an inordinate amount, plus he took a selfie of them together while she was sleeping, which he doesn’t think is creepy at all. They remind him that he has a tendency to “smother” and be “needy, pathetic, desperate, delusional.” Or that’s what his sister (Lizze Broadway) says. His mom (Amy Sedaris) says he is just hopeless romantic and his father (Tate Donovan) mostly wants him to tell everyone that he wrestled in high school. Charming. Anytoots, Sadie doesn’t respond to his texts, which really gets Cole’s goat, because he’s a slightly above average handsome white guy who will not be ignored! Ha. No, I’m kidding. Or am I? But! Then he remembers that he left his inhaler, which has a tracking tile attached to it, in her purse, which means he can look up her location. Not creepy at all, friends, and did not make my blood run cold. (His sister, who is always needling him, asks if his asthma isn’t “sad enough already” without using his inhaler to track down this woman, and oh my fucking face can we please stop with the vile ableism and assigning worth based on, say, someone’s ability to breathe? This joke can also go into the Potomac. Though, at this point I’m concerned I’m going to be fined for polluting.) Turns out, Sadie, the tile, and the inhaler are in Central London, where, at his parents’ encouragement, he decides to follow as a grand romantic gesture or a very obsessive stalkery gesture, depending on your perspective.
Once in London, Cole is kidnapped by some nasty guys who are under the false impression that he is someone called the Taxman and is in possession of a very important passcode to a biological weapon that they have stolen. Just as they’re about to torture the daylights out of him in some underground cave, who should come busting with guns blazing to save the day but Sadie Rhodes, who is most definitely not an art curator, but a CIA agent and the actual Taxman.
SO! Here we are at the point where we fully realize that a LOT of the humor in this movie is predicated on the idea the man is the fumbling, provincial, needy, idealistic one who will always put the person he cares about first, while the woman is emotionally unavailable, prioritizes her job over relationships, and is more adept at dispatching twenty trained assassins in a tunnel than having a proper relationship. I mean, if that’s your cup of tea, then enjoy this seemingly bottomless draught of it, and I hope that while you’re guzzling and giggling it doesn’t accidentally go down the wrong pipe. Otherwise, let’s trudge onward together through this morass.
Um, I guess Sadie is an elite spy for the CIA who carries the same purse to the farmer’s market as she does on her missions and didn’t double check for any tracking devices after she spent a whole ass day and night with a random stranger? Highly doubtful. Also, and this a personal pet peeve, she’s got these two tendrils of hair escaping her braid that frame her face, which I’m 1000% sure reads as sexy or whatever, but in reality would be so unrelentingly annoying if you were running for your life, whipping your head around corners, trying to spot people trying to off you. I’m speaking from the hypothetical here because I’ve never actually done any of that, but I have had tendrils of hair frame my face and they can be nice and all, but those suckers need to be, at the very least, tucked behind your ears when you’re doing serious work. This was the point when I went and looked to see if this movie was written by men. It was. But all that makes way more sense than how they start in Central London and then walk through a bunch of tunnels, shooting people and arguing as they go, obviously, and without further explanation come out in fucking Pakistan. Or, a version of a Pakistan where the steering wheels are all on the left hand side of the cars? As they’re racing away from lots of guys with machine guns, they spend more time arguing about whether he’s needy and stalkerish and whether she should have been more open and honest. It’s a real delight. Later, they meet a guy with whom she used to have some kind of an intimate relationship who is missing a hand and the implication is that his missing body part is directly linked to her unwillingness to ever prioritize emotional connections over her job. I mean, they seem to be saying that such a trait in women could be deadly (or at least very dangerous) for men, especially since later we meet yet another man who once dated Sadie who is also very maimed. Side note: This second guy also says something about having lost his penis, which made him a better listener, but, friends, we do not have time to unpack all that disturbing nonsense.
As much as Sadie and Cole say they want to part ways, they end up glommed together in the fight to find the passcode, recover the biological weapon, and take down the villainous villain (who is played by Adrian Brody doing a voice that makes him sound like a small child trying play a Very Bad Man). They nearly get caught by several bounty hunters, but of course manage to escape them all and present themselves—with Cole posing as the Taxman and Sadie as his bounty hunter—to the villainous villains. (The part where several bounty hunters keep killing each other off in succession to try and get to Cole and Sadie is mildly funny, but not worth the sixteen lifetimes (or eye injury) it will take you to otherwise watch this movie.) Their plan all goes to shit at some point, though, and the pivotal moment comes when Sadie gets stabbed in the stomach and Cole, seeing her injured, suddenly switches into alpha male superhero mode, because nothing gets a good man going like seeing the woman he cares about being physically vulnerable. You know, like when he was taking selfies while she was sleeping. Plus, this is an opportunity for the movie and Cole to show us what Sadie has been doing wrong by not prioritizing relationships above her work. Is it pitched as him saving her from herself in some sense? Uh, kinda and it gave me the icks.
You can probably hum the rest of the plot (while keeping time by bashing your head into a wall). They’re eventually going to really fall for each other. She’s going to stop calling him a stalker. (I’m not.) His knowledge is going to help save the fucking day. She’s going to show up somewhere in a very sexy dress and all men in the place, including the villainous villains, are going to pause to gape at her, because it’s important to take time out of murderous plots to objectify women. Also, it’s important that she show up to this event, on which her entire career and the lives of many people depend, really turned out for the male gaze. Things are going to go boom a lot. I will learn that I can’t really distinguish very well between all the various inoffensively handsome and affably charming famous Ryans and Chrises. (Not meant to be an insult.) People are going to come very close to getting away with bad shit, but in the end justice will prevail; totally creepy moves will be recast as romantic; love (I guess) will win; my eyeballs will become lodged somewhere behind my orbital bones; and most importantly (not really) everyone will learn that it’s “never a mistake to protect the people you love.” It is, however, a mistake to assume that this movie would be a fun escape for your eyes and brain.