Enid and Rebecca (Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated from high school. Part of the anti-social crowd, they hate just about everything and make fun of everything else. Enid seems happy enough to live this way for the rest of her life, but Rebecca soon gets a job and starts looking for an apartment in earnest. Enid becomes fascinated with Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a rare record collector, that they set-up on a false blind date. She genuinely likes Seymour and they become friends. As Enid and Seymour become closer, Rebecca moves towards a more normal, middle-class life.
“Ghost World”, directed by Terry Zwigoff (“Crumb”) and written by Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes have created a really wonderful comic film. Clowes and Zwigoff have adapted Clowes graphic novel of the same name into a film that is original, funny and very memorable.
Thora Birch (“American Beauty”) is Enid, an 18 year old high school graduate who is floundering a bit now that she doesn’t have the security of high school. As much as she hated it, it provided structure. Now she seems to be working overtime to find things to amuse her. Slightly chunky, wearing dark mismatched clothes, Birch accurately channels the spirit of a dissatisfied teenager. Scarlet Johansson is also very good as the second half of this relationship. More willing to adapt to the outside world, she is sort of the flipside of this record. A bit off the wall, but also more mainstream. The situations that they become involved in seem completely natural. It just seems natural for Enid to buy a leather cat woman mask at an adult book store. It just seems natural for Enid to wear the same mask proudly on the street.
Steve Buscemi is brilliant as Seymour. Seymour is the type of guy who has let life pass him by. Forty something and still living with a roommate, he seems to covet his rare records than he does a relationship, causing him to be awkward and tentative when confronted by women.
Illeana Douglas is also memorable as the summer school art teacher, the perfect embodiment of an artist who is struggling to make ends meet. It could be a caricature, but I have seen people like this in real life, and she captures it perfectly.
Zwigoff has a decidedly offbeat sense of humor. His film is intelligent, thoughtful and very funny. The differences between this film and any mainstream studio effort at comedy (i.e., ‘American Pie’, ‘Rush Hour 2’) is that the comedy comes from natural situations, believable situations, which makes the comedy seem more real, more memorable and more funny.
“Ghost World” is a great film and will most likely be on my list of best films of the year.