Ghost World

"Good"

Ghost World Review


It seems only natural that eccentric underground director Terry Zwigoff would follow up his acclaimed documentary of eccentric underground cartoonist R. Crumb with an adaptation of an eccentric underground comic book. But "Ghost World" is more than an adaptation -- it truly looks and feels as if the pages of the 1990s teen alienation anthology have come alive.

Every shot is photographed like a frame in a comic book. The palate of primary colors is an homage to the art form (although not directly to "Ghost World," which was drawn in black and white). The terse but pithy characters even speak in musing snippets short enough to fit in a dialogue bubble. And each of those characters is so well drawn -- in terms of performance, body language and wardrobe -- that simply looking at a still from the movie you can glean their entire personalities.

Published in the mid-90s, "Ghost World" was a comic about two misanthropic out-crowd teenage girls set adrift after high school graduation in a loathsome, nondescript semi-suburban world of Starbucks and strip malls. They have a plan to find McJobs and get an apartment together, but stubbornly proud pariah Enid (played with pitch-perfect, sardonic, anti-social waywardness by "American Beauty's" Thora Birch) is procrastinating, subconsciously unwilling to grow up and become just another cog in the wheel.

A thrift shop and Doc Marten's kind of girl with a jet black bob and nouveau Buddy Holly peepers, Enid spends the days immediately following graduation clinging to her subversive immaturity with her more mainstream bosom buddy Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson, "The Horse Whisperer"). In one scene that proves pivotal later, they play a practical joke on a miserable sap named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) by answering his pathetic personal ad, then hanging out at a counterfeit '50s diner (that plays hip-hop on the juke box) to snicker while watching him get stood up.

But before long the girls begin drifting apart. Rebecca moves on, getting a job as a chain store coffee slinger and hunting for an apartment. Meanwhile Enid stagnates, in part because she's stuck in a suffocating summer art class she needs to get her diploma, but mostly because she can't see her way clear to any kind of future that doesn't make her want to gag.

What's refreshing about "Ghost World" is that it's not a pat depiction of adolescent aimlessness or angst. These girls are not stereotypes in any way (although fans of MTV's "Daria" may recognize some of Enid's personality traits), yet thanks to the talents of Birch and Johansson we quickly come to know them well enough to understand how they think. For example, without the topic even being discussed we know that Rebecca is the kind of girl who takes petulant pleasure in shooting icy "you gotta be kidding me" stares at guys who come on to her. We also gather that Enid is silently jealous of Rebecca for even having the opportunity.

Enid does, however, find herself in an curious relationship with, of all people, Seymour the sad sack. After bumping into him at a garage sale, she surprises herself by bonding with him over his obsession with old blues 78s. Soon she's recognized Seymour as a kindred outcast and begins hanging out at his kitchy apartment and trying to hook him up on dates. (Things become very awkward when she actually succeeds.)

All pent-up cynicism and inherent geekiness, Buscemi couldn't be more perfect in his role, which Zwigoff has admitted was written (by himself and "Ghost World" creator Daniel Clowes) as a thinly disguised version of himself.

Other adult influences in Enid's life are nothing but flakes. Her art teacher (Illeana Douglas) is a faux-funky elitist who looks down her nose at the illustrated diary kept by our heroine, and her bewildered father (Bob Balaban) is little more than background noise in her life.

Ultimately, this wry ironic comedy isn't about Enid's world, but about her own frustration with setting out on the road to self-discovery and coming to a dead end. It's an extraordinary 180-degree turn from the kind of romanticized, sexualized, pat-on-the-head assembly-line teenager flicks cranked out several times a year in Hollywood.

PS: It's worth your while to stay through the credits.



Facts and Figures

Run time: 111 mins

In Theaters: Thursday 18th October 2001

Box Office USA: $4.7M

Distributed by: United Artists

Production compaines: Capitol Films, Granada Film Productions, Jersey Films, Mr. Mudd Production, United Artists Pictures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Fresh: 141 Rotten: 12

IMDB: 7.5 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Enid, as Rebecca, as Seymour, as Josh, as Enid's Dad, as Maxine, as Dana, as Gerrold, the Pushy Guy, as John Ellis, as Doug, Tom McGowan as Joe, Charles C. Stevenson Jr. as Norman, Debra Azar as Melora, as Sidewinder Boss, as Roberta Allsworth

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

War Dogs Movie Review

War Dogs Movie Review

Based on a rather astounding true story, this comedy-drama centres on two stoners who landed...

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

Swallows and Amazons Movie Review

After a number of films, TV series and stage adaptations, Arthur Ransome's beloved 1930 novel...

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

David Brent: Life on the Road Movie Review

The original BBC sitcom The Office ran for 14 episodes from 2001 to 2003, and...

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

The Childhood of a Leader Movie Review

Bold and intelligent, this dark drama is a challenging portrait of the making of an...

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

Pete's Dragon Movie Review

This hugely enjoyable adventure is a loose remake of the 1977 Disney hit that blended...

Advertisement
The Shallows Movie Review

The Shallows Movie Review

With a simple premise and plenty of visual style, Spanish filmmaker Jaume Collet-Serra (Unknown) takes...

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates Movie Review

Watching this gross-out comedy, it's clear that the gifted cast and crew had a great...

Nerve Movie Review

Nerve Movie Review

With a premise that feels almost eerily current, this stylish thriller revolves around a phone...

The Carer Movie Review

The Carer Movie Review

Brian Cox gets the role of a lifetime in this warm comedy about living life...

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Born to Be Blue Movie Review

Writer-director Robert Budreau takes a stylised approach to this biopic of the legendary jazz artist...

Jason Bourne Movie Review

Jason Bourne Movie Review

It's been nine years since Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass collaborated on The Bourne Ultimatum,...

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

The Commune [Kollektivet] Movie Review

Veteran Danish filmmaker Thomas Vinterberg (Festen, The Hunt) returns to a smaller homegrown story after...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.