TUCSON, Ariz. — "Lady of the Manor" takes a thin premise and drives it six feet into the ground.
Set at a historic Savannah home that's been turned into a tourist trap by its cynical caretakers, the story is about a grudging friendship that develops between the ghost of Lady Wadsworth (Judy Greer) -- the woman who once lived at home -- and Hannah (Malanie Lynskey) the rough-hewn woman who plays her in reenactments.
The movie opens in theaters and on-demand Friday.
Taking umbrage at Hannah's pot-smoking, flatulence-spewing weighs, Lady Wadsworth takes to haunting her. Appearing only to Hannah, she puts her relationships and livelihood in jeopardy by forcing her into awkward situations unless she shapes up and makes her legacy proud. The comedy works on two fish-out-of-water premises, with Lady Wadwsworth unable to understand current customs and Hannah causing problems in her stuffy surroundings.
It's enough of a setup for a short film but sucks wind when it's tasked to carry the weight of a 96-minute feature film.
The film raises and falls on the chemistry and conflict between Greer and Lynskey, and they deliver all they can before the writing wears thin, leaving little room for their dynamic to evolve. Occasional moments of hilarity waft away in the second and third acts.
Brothers Justin and Christian Long write and direct the comedy but probably could have used more time workshopping some jokes with someone outside the sibling bond to keep the thin premise afloat. Justin Long also pops up as a romantic interest for Hannah, competing with Tanner Wadsworth (Ryan Phillippe) for her affections while taking her ghostly problems in a good-natured stride.
Exactly what makes the crass, belligerent Hannah worthy of serving as the apex of a love triangle is never quite clear, but this is a film based on a friendship between a ghost and a living person, so logic fails to apply.
"Lady of the Manor" is never too dull or offensively awful, but there's not enough here to keep it from wearing out its welcome. The cast is strong enough, but the movie never had a ghost of a chance without a better script.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.
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