When David Lowery’s North Texas-shot film “A Ghost Story” debuted at Sundance in January, critics were generally impressed — Variety called it “a delicate portrait of a restless spirit” — but it was a scene involving a pie furnished by Fort Worth’s Spiral Diner that generated much of the buzz.
After the death of her husband, played by Casey Affleck, the Rooney Mara character slides into despair, eating her feelings in the form of downing an entire vegan chocolate cream pie in several, long silent minutes.
Slate said that it is “one of the most memorable pie-related moments ever committed to film, right alongside those in ‘American Pie’ and ‘The Help.’”
Vulture quipped, “Rooney attacks that pie like a cake person, engineering such unusual fork scoops (she stabs the pie at least four times before each bite) that I started to wonder whether the actress had even ever seen a pie before. We all do weird things when dealing with grief, but I was tickled by the fact that Mara’s bizarre pie-eating method still managed to leave the crust mostly intact. Even when she’s plunging deep into character, Rooney Mara is not going to touch a carb.”
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Not everyone was impressed. Newark Star-Ledger’s Stephen Witty called the whole thing indulgent. “It plays like the worst kind of acting exercise — Eat like you’re grieving! Dance like you’re angry! Watch a movie like you’re interested! — and adds nothing to this film but time.”
But, love it or hate it, everyone was talking about it. And, now that the film is finally opening in North Texas Friday, the conversation is going to be happening here as well.
“I really wanted there to be one scene that would define Rooney’s character and her emotional arc in the film and I wanted to limit it to one scene,” Lowery explains to the Star-Telegram. “I wanted to give her a moment to really ground herself within the movie. ... Her character goes through an emotional experience and I wanted to convey that in a very tactile and tangible way.”
Lowery says he didn’t give Rooney specific direction. “She could have made it a two-minute shot, she could have made it a 10-minute shot. She could have quit halfway through and said, ‘I’m not eating any more of this.’ ... I trusted her to take it and run with it. As a result, it’s my favorite scene in the movie.”
Now, if you want to re-enact your own “A Ghost Story” grief-eating pig-out with a Spiral Diner chocolate cream pie, be warned that the desserts at the vegan eatery rotate so it might not be available when you show up.
Also, in a series of tweets, Spiral Diner co-owner James M. Johnston — a filmmaker and producer on “A Ghost Story” as well as previous Lowery projects — noted that the pie in the movie is different from a pie in the restaurant.
He said that:
▪ “I made it with very little sugar and fat so it wouldn’t be too rich.”
▪ “The pie had extra-thick crust so she’d really have to work at it. The filling was akin to panna cotta.”
He also said that they tested four pies. “She liked choc best,” he wrote. “On the day of, I made four more, but we only did one take! Crew ate the rest.”
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The short film, which was honored at this year's Lone Star Film Festival, features the Paris Coffee Shop and its legendary pies. Courtesy of Mark Birnbaum