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Ghost World

  ghost world
Scarlett Johansson and Thora Birch prepare to unleash their post-graduate cynicism.

© 2001, United Artists
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"Ghost World" (IMDb listing), directed by Terry Zwigoff and written by Zwigoff and Dan Clowes, is a story of two cynical best friends, Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), who recently graduated from high school. They are as vicious as teenage girls can be, as they make fun of the inanities of their peers and their surrounding world, which seems to be filled with shallow, stupid people. Based on the graphic novel "Ghost World" by comic artist/writer Dan Clowes (creator of underground comic favorite "Eightball"), the film is a near-perfect adaptation of the original story's brooding, melancholic pacing. This movie goes beyond mere straight adaptation, however, as writers Zwigoff and Clowes expand and build upon the distorted and often funny world that Enid and Rebecca occupy. Clowes' characters are lifted from the comic page and brought into three dimensions, usually with hilarious results.

Enid and Rebecca decide to sack the conventional idea of how high school grads are supposed to go about their lives (ie: college, career, etc), instead choosing to find menial jobs and moving into an apartment together. As they go about their separate ways to raise money for their endeavor, the girls often run into strange and uncomfortable situations, such as run-ins with comic-store regulars or insane rednecks in convenience stores.

The girls dote over a convenience store clerk named Josh (Brad Renfro), who doesn't seem to like either of the girls, or is perhaps too intimidated by their upfront behavior. Meanwhile, as Rebecca is slaving away in a coffee shop, Enid ends up in an unlikely friendship with an eccentric, older man named Seymour (Steve Buscemi in all of his eccentric glory). Seymour's anemic, sad-sack expression is accentuated by his moldy, brown thrift store suits and his penchant for collecting old blues 78s and antique advertising art. Enid is drawn to the pale, sickly-looking man in his mid 40s, as she soon finds that his quirkiness and inherent strangeness aren't far from her own behavior.

"Ghost World" could have been turned into yet another annoying teen movie about pseudo-bohemian, malcontent teenagers (usually played by actors in their late 20s), who despise everything they consider superficial or absurd in this world. But with Clowes in tight control of the script, he doesn't let his artful baby turn into another pile of cliched Hollywood dreck. "Ghost World" is a haunting, oftentimes hilarious, and very entertaining film that will appeal to a large audience. The dialogue is wonderfully written, and is often witty. The colors jump at you as if you were really looking at a comic book (even though the original "Ghost world" comic serial was presented in black, white and blue hues). "Ghost World" is a tender, realistic look into the world of teenage girls who believe the world is all wrong, and they're right.

With "Ghost World," Thora Birch has redeemed herself from the ungodly awfulness of "Dungeons and Dragons." Birch can be deliciously bitchy in one scene, then deeply wounded the next. Buscemi's portrayal of Seymour is another standout performance. Buscemi needs to stop appearing in those lame-ass Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer turds ("Con Air," "Armageddon"), and go back to playing interesting characters like Seymour. Additionally, Illeana Douglas turns in a brilliant cameo as a stereotypically whacked-out, politically-correct art school teacher who encourages Enid to follow her artistic instincts.

If you're looking for an alternative to the flashy summer atrocities of late, you need to give "Ghost World" a try. "Ghost World" has more humanity in five minutes than 10 full-length blockbusters belched out by the Hollywood machine.

Filmfodder Grade: A+

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