Ghost World


Directed by: Terry Zwigoff
Written by:Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeanna Douglas
Released: June 27, 2002
Grade: A+

Enid would have to be the most interesting character seen on screen in a long time.  Played impeccably by Thora Birch (American Beauty), Enid hates trends and the monotony of society - she’s too intelligent for her own good.  Just having graduated high-school, Enid and best friend Rebecca (Johansson) are looking for a place to move in together.  At school, they chose to keep away from the “in” crowd and between themselves, they ridiculed practically everybody.

In a newspaper, Enid reads an personal ad from a loser named Seymour (Buscemi) trying to get in touch with a woman he fleetingly met at an airport.  Intrigued by the pathetic image the ad portrayed, Enid calls the number and pretending to be the elusive woman, tells Seymour to meet her at a local cafe.  Seymour shows up with Enid, Rebecca and their friend Josh (Renfro) giggling and judging him from a distance while he waits for the date that will never arrive.

Feeling pity, Enid then decides to follow Seymour home and discovers he has a love for old records and music.  Introducing herself at a garage sale, Enid and Seymour hit it off and they find themselves attracted by each other’s wit, sarcasm and negativity.  But what is developing between them?  Is it a friendship or something more significant?

Based on a comic book by Daniel Clowes, Ghost World is a quirky black comedy that turns the teen genre on its head.  There’s a bit of Enid in all of us.  Director Terry Zwigoff describes her as someone “trying to find herself in a world that’s rapidly turning into one big consumer theme park, a monoculture without much of anything authentic remaining.”  Aren’t there times where you’ve become sick of the predictable commercialism that seems to lace everything these days?

The interaction between the characters is the film’s heart.  Enid doesn’t know where she’s going with her life and her confusion affects her friendships with both Rebecca and Seymour.  Just when you start to like her, she’ll do something stupid and your opinions will change.  Don’t expect the film’s conclusion to offer much resolution.  It’s very exciting to have a film explore these feelings.  Is Enid the hero or not?

From the get-go, Ghost World is something special.  The background music to the opening credits comes from the 1965 Indian film Gumnaam.  Clearly, Terry Zwigoff doesn’t know the meaning of the word conventional.  To add spice, Zwigoff throws in an hilarious subplot involving Enid going to summer school and being taught by an art teacher (Illeana Douglas) who has no idea what she’s doing.  It’s crazy!

Thora Birch is simply magical.  Getting decent roles as a young female in Hollywood is a near impossibility but following her breakthrough effort in American Beauty, Birch has found that lightening can strike twice - she was born to play this role.  Controversially overlooked at Oscar time, Steve Buscemi is also well cast in playing such a big-time loser.  He’s still one of the most overlooked actors of today and most are still unfamiliar with his name despite appearing in films such as Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Fargo, Con Air, The Big Lebowski and Armageddon.

How can you pass up an opportunity like this to see one of the year’s best films?  It’s about the challenges and difficulties in this world that intelligent people face.  In a world that’s being overrun by shopping centres and coffee shops, places around the world are losing their character.  They’re becoming “ghost worlds” so to speak.  Filmmaking is in the same boat but thanks to talented individuals like Terry Zwigoff, Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi there’s hope for us all yet...