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Ghost World
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2002
Format: DVD
The so-called "teen movies" offered in recent years have been of a dull and empty variation. The basic formula usually includes the geek who gets the girl/guy, the nasty popular kids, the jocks, the unlikely couple and more uses of the word "like" than any normal person is able to tolerate. What a rare treat it is that in the middle of the season usually full of teen movie trash that we had "Ghost World", a film that remembers that not everybody fits into easily accessible categories (adults and teens alike).
Thora Birch is Enid, a high school grad unsure of what to do with the rest of her life. She thinks she will rent an apartment with her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), but with no job and summer school (for flunking art), nothing is certain. In a similar spot is Seymour (Steve Buschemi), a record collector who can't see any real meaning to his actions. Enid and Rebecca play a seemingly harmless prank on him after seeing a classified ad he put in the paper. Quite to the surprise of the duo, this little stunt really hurts Seymour. Guilty, Enid feels obligated to hook him up with the girl he was looking for in the ad.
What is remarkable about "Ghost World" is not that it is more entertaining than your average teen entertainment. No, what strikes me about "Ghost World" is how astutely it remembers the feeling of displacement that plagues so many teens. Enid doesn't seem to have many friends who respect her, and as cynical as she may get, human contact is the obvious ingredient missing in her life, even though she is constantly pushing it away. Rebecca urges her to get a job, so she gets a job working at a concession stand in a multiplex. That same day, she's fired for too many wise remarks about the theater and it's customers. Enid doesn't feel the need to "fit in", instead she sees the whole world collapsing around her and would rather observe and snicker than get away from the problem. She tries to move on with her life, yet everyone around her is trying to keep her grounded. Thora Birch seems more alive as Enid than in any other of her roles. In "American Beauty", she played a similar character, but I was less than convinced with her portrayal, mostly consisting of pouting. In "Ghost World", it is like she has woken up, and really works as Enid. Her chemistry with the other actors ranges from comfortable to repellent as the story requires.
Seymour is just as miserable as Enid. He collects all kinds of junk- from jazz records to old posters from the fast-food company he works for. He wishes he could have a more rewarding career and a more exciting life. "I hate my intrests", he remarks. Where Enid is a little more honest and will say anything that comes to her mind, Seymour builds a shield against pain with his collections and obsessions and rarely takes a chance. Enid does not care about the consequences; Seymour is constantly running away from them. Steve Buschemi is wonderful in this role. He does what an actor should as he doesn't overact but really gets into the character and inhabits him. As we watch him, we feel just like a picture Enid draws in her sketchbook: "Go Seymour!" We want him to get the girl, to succeed and live happily ever after. Unfortunately, his own self-pity comes back to haunt him when he realizes he has nothing in common with the woman of his dreams.
In the end, Enid is off to create a world of her own, while Seymour is left behind back where he started. He does have his experiences with Enid, but how far does that really take him? We will never find out, but we are sure that he will start to come into his own; we now have gained confidence in him. The film has that personal touch that most films lack. Coming from Terry Zwigoff, a man who threatened to commit suicide if the subject for a documentary he was making didn't cooperate ("Crumb"), it's easy to see why the film is so accurate in its portrayal of emotional emptiness. "Ghost World" has so many strengths to deem it one of the best films of the year. And as much as some would like to disagree, it is not a teen movie in any way, shape or form.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Terry Zwigoff's "Ghost World" is that rarest of hybrids -- a human comedy, brilliantly and bizarrely funny, but suffused with a profound sense of melancholia. The experience of watching it is deliriously pleasurable, but the humor emerges from the film's unfailingly generous reservoir of empathy; by the end, you're not sure whether to respond to these characters with laughter or with love. It is quite clear that Zwigoff feels both.
And that's what critics of this fine film have overlooked -- that although 17-year-old Enid (Thora Birch) looks at the world with bitter, unremittingly sarcastic eyes, "Ghost World" couldn't be less cynical or judgmental if it tried. Of all the characters on display, most of whom Enid despises and ridicules, there isn't a single one who isn't really good at heart; even the art teacher (a ridiculously funny Illeana Douglas), who has been derided as a one-dimensional caricature, has an untouchable core of decency.
Indeed, the character for whom "Ghost World" retains the harshest criticism is Enid herself. As much as we adore her terrifying intelligence, her single-mindedly retro fashion sense, and her contempt for all things phony and pretentious, we aren't allowed to forget her self-destructive habits or her unwillingness to grow up even as the world around her charges resolutely forward. Her best friend, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), once her partner in crime, has taken on a normalcy and sense of perspective that Enid finds tiresome, which is partly why she takes refuge in a lonely middle-aged bachelor named Seymour (Steve Buscemi, in a shoulda-been-Oscar-nominated performance). Their bond is at once improbable and emotionally convincing, and Zwigoff harmonizes Birch's and Buscemi's own highly idiosyncratic styles into a marvelous, unforced chemistry.
Compassionate and subtly optimistic, "Ghost World" only falters slightly with a few misfired pop-culture references and an ending that's both ambiguous and too overstated, but even that misstep proves strangely satisfying. With a character as unforgettable as Enid, it's good to know that there's such a thing as closure -- even if it's open-ended closure.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
HALL OF FAMEon March 17, 2002
Format: DVD
Probably the best praise I can offer for "Ghost World," directed by Terry Zwigoff, is that the film had me laughing heartily from the start nearly to the end. Yes, it's a great comedy. But it's also a surprisingly melancholy and touching character study that is graced with superb performances by an excellent cast.
"Ghost World" tells the story of Enid (played by Thora Birch) and her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johannson), recent high school grads who are struggling through this transitional phase in their lives. Early in the film the girls, who scorn much of "mainstream" society, play a cruel joke on an eccentric loner named Seymour (Steve Buscemi). But what begins as a joke leads into a quirky, engaging relationship between Seymour and Enid. The main story is well complemented by some equally quirky subplots, all of which blend together to form an effective larger story.
"Ghost World" is filled with witty, funny, irony-laden dialogue. And these great words are delivered with flair by the wonderful cast. Birch really shines as an offbeat leading lady; her performance has bite, but she's also appealing and vulnerable. Johannson complements her well as pal Rebecca, and Ileana Douglas is a lot of fun as Enid's politically conscious summer school art teacher. And I can't say enough good things about Steve Buscemi as Seymour. He takes what could have been a stereotypical antisocial loser and instead brings real depth and humanity to the character.
The great script and performances are well enhanced by thoughtful, inventive production details; "Ghost World" is almost as much fun to look at as it is to listen to. This is a really outstanding film that effectively deals with such universal issues as alienation, nonconformity, friendship, and the transition to young adulthood.
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Dan Clowes, the only comic book artist to be nominated for an Oscar (for best screenplay this film, along with the director Terry Zwigoff), brings to life characters created in one particular storyline from his highly popular and very odd independent comic book Eightball, specifically in the unconventional film Ghost World (2001).
The film, directed by Terry Zwigoff, who also directed the acclaimed biopic about underground artist Robert Crumb aptly entitled Crumb (1994) and Bad Santa (2004), stars Thora Birch as Enid, Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca, and Steve Buscemi as Seymour. The story begins with Enid and Rebecca, who are best friends, graduating from high school. During their slightly reflective moments of high school, we begin to learn that these two girls are among the fringe dwellers. You may be familiar with them, as they were the kids who dressed oddly, oozed sarcasm, shunned almost all after school activities, and seemed to have a negative view of most everything, seeing what they perceived as the phoniness and superficialities rampantly inherent within their environment, and taking pleasure in tormenting and alienating those around them and purposely ostracizing themselves from their peers. They often emit an aura of superiority, believing they are above the banalities, relishing their positions as outsiders smart enough to see through the perceived lameness, but their non-conformist attitudes often rendered them to most as snide, obnoxious losers with extremely limited social circles whose actions seemed to mask a deeper, desperately needing to belong but due to physical differences, lack of athletic abilities and just general awkwardness of youth put them in a not so unique position of never really fitting in with their peers.
Anyway, as the post graduation phase sets in, Enid and Rebecca's paths begin to separate as they had originally intended to get an apartment together, which requires money ergo jobs, but Enid must take a summer school art class to complete her requirements for her high school diploma. Rebecca, seemingly beginning to grow out of the non-conformist phase takes a job at a coffee shop understanding that her goals rely on the very real fact that things cost money, while Enid's less than heartfelt attempts at work fail miserably (her stint working in a movie theater is truly funny...Movie Patron: Do you serve beer or any alcohol? Enid: I wish. Actually you wish... after about five minutes of this movie, you're gonna wish you had ten beers.) Through a particularly obnoxious and uncomfortable prank pulled on a completely unsuspecting and random individual, they meet Seymour, someone most would consider an unassuming loser in that he lives a very isolated life, has no misconceptions about his identity or attractiveness in general, and obsesses over rare records, devoting an entire room in his modest apartment to this pursuit. Enid later develops a relationship mostly due to the fact, in her words, `I kind of like him. He's the exact opposite of everything I really hate. In a way, he's such a clueless dork, he's almost kind of cool.' Enid begins to identify with Seymour, someone who has excepted his loser status and has even managed to squeeze an existence out of it, while Rebecca seems to be conforming more and more to achieve a goal once shared by both girls, straining their relationship, and effectively isolating Enid even more, especially once Seymour begins to develop a relationship with a woman that Enid helped him meet, not thinking it would ever go very far...
The story sort of rambles along, but seemingly with a purpose. Certain elements appear completely odd and disconnected from any plot, but if you've ever read Eightball, you may have more of an understanding of this, as is how the comic book (graphic novel) is set up, which is one of the elements that made it so popular, at least within the individuals that followed the comic. Offbeat, irrelevant, irregular, spooky, ethereal, sarcastic, witty, genuine, scary, sad, humorous, these are all words I would use to describe both the comic book and the film. I was surprised to see this movie made, much more so a major studio release, as the comic didn't seem to lend itself to this kind of treatment, especially given that the main character is not one your normal viewer would like or develop much empathy for...The characters are very well developed, warts and all, and Birch is wonderful as the snotty, snooty outsider who finds life certainly isn't the same as when she was in high school, suffering, in part, to her unwillingness to grow from her childish attitudes and develop a path to follow. Buscemi seems made for his part as Seymour `I can't relate to 99% of humanity', given his unique physical appearance and understanding created within the context of his character of his lot in life, embracing that which is comfortable, while the rest being more of a means to an end supporting his passion. He knows what he is, but seems to harbor no ill will or outward hatred towards society in general, accepting his role in life, taking what comes his way and just going with the flow.
The wide screen picture looks really sharp with matching audio. Special features include deleted scenes, a ten minute featurette entitled Making of Ghost World which, in its' brevity and use of various scenes from the film hardly shares much of anything, a music video for the sixties Indian music sequence presented at the beginning of the film (which we see as Enid is watching it on her television), and an original theatrical trailer for the film, along with a TV spot, and a couple of other trailers for more popular films. If you enjoyed this film, I would also recommend Crumb (1994), American Splendor (2003) and the upcoming Clowes/Zwigoff production of Art School Confidential (2004). By the way, watch the film all the way through the credits as a nice little surprise awaits you.
Cookieman108
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96 of 116 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2001
This movie has two potential audiences.
1. Seymour�s 99%, i.e., that segment of the population which he (or I) can�t relate to at all. People lacking any modicum of self-awareness, whose lives are spent in the mall or in front of the TV watching prime time network television. People whose record collection may include the complete works of Ashford & Simpson, and whose car radio is tuned to any cloying morning Zoo program. People in this group may enjoy �Ghost World� to a degree. They will find Enid�s green hair and Rebecca�s cynical attitude amusing. They will laugh at Seymour�s bland wardrobe and jagged brown teeth. And when the movie�s over, they will leave the theatre quietly, walk to their SUVs, and head home to their quiet suburban existence.
But really, this movie is not for them.
2. It�s really for Seymour�s 1%, i.e., that segment of the population distressed by conformity, obsessed by weirdness, and repressed because of it. These are the people who surround themselves with massive record collections, or H.R. Pufnstuf dolls, or Bollywood videos, in an effort to beat a different path. They are lonely, frustrated, and on the verge of giving up any hope at a social life, in favour of a hermetic existence. These are the people that will be able to relate to �Ghost World�s startling menagerie of misfits. And feel tremendous sadness for themselves as well.
Terry Zwigoff mines much of the same material here that he did with his documentary �Crumb�, save for the emphasis on ill mental health. It�s an amazing turn for a man previously known only as a documentarian. I suppose that�s why the reality of the characters� surrounding is so real. Each scene is populated with mile and miles of personable knick-knacks and bland consumer products. Seymour and Enid�s rooms perfectly reflect their personalities. The screenplay, conceived with �Ghost World� originator Daniel Clowes, manages to tackle the banality of suburban life, and the oppression of consumer culture with just the right amount of bite and bile. Their collective sense of humour is put on display right away, by showing a high school valedictorian confined to a wheelchair and a monstrous neck brace, in a scene played for laughs. If you don�t giggle at the hypocrisy of this moment (her old intoxicated ways gave her a �spiritual perspective on life� while it was robbing her of the use of her legs), then I recommend avoiding the film altogether.
Another reason to avoid the film is if you are squeamish at the idea of a 40+-year-old man and an 18-year-old girl having a relationship. One of �Ghost World� most powerful points is in Enid and Seymour�s friendship. These are two kindred spirits, oddballs to the rest of the world, who�ve found each other and cherish each other�s oddness. Sure, chronologically one may be twice the age of the other, but Enid and Seymour have so much in common that it would be a shame to keep them apart just for that.
Thora Birch, playing a similar character here as in �American Beauty�, is asked to carry the movie, and boy does she. Even while showing Enid�s enormous extroverted ego, you always get a sense that she is as fragile and scared on the inside as the weirdoes she torments. And Birch exudes an odd strength (both physical and emotional) that allows Enid to get away with more than she really deserves. Enid�s relationship with Rebecca, played by Scarlett Johansson, is confusing at first. These girls seem to be so much at odds with each other. There are some tangible hints at malice bubbling beneath the surface. Silly me. They�re supposed to be there. Enid and Rebecca may or may not be nearing the end of their friendship, for adulthood is looming and it�s time to grow up. Rebecca (Johansson does fine work, content with being subdued and allowing Birch to steal the show) wants to move out and get a real job; Enid is still obsessed with punk rock.
Seymour is an inspired creation. He�s in the paradoxical position of desperately wanting female companionship, while simultaneously despising nearly every person he meets. His passions rule him, bubbling up at the inappropriate times (like when he tries to pick up a woman in a bar, only to find himself yammering on about the difference between Ragtime blues and conventional blues� 12-bar structure; his prospective score wears an expression of utter confusion). Steve Buscemi -- the most recognizable face in the cast -- manages to disappear into Seymour�s everyman/loser persona seamlessly. Buscemi�s Seymour hates his life immensely, but never becomes whiny or unpleasant. He just goes about his business, allowing his undercurrent of anger to seethe gently to the surface in rare moments (e.g. Enid: �I�d kill for a collection like this!� Seymour: �Go ahead and kill me.�).
�Ghost World� isn�t for everyone. But it should be. It gives a window into the world of the disenchanted, those of us who walk the streets and feel ill at the sights of the conformist and soulless masses. So maybe there is, after all, a third potential audience for the film. Those who pay good money for tickets, and walk out of the theatre befuddled at what they just saw, unable to relate to the wonderful characters on screen. Which in an odd way reminds me of the old poker axiom:
�If you sit down at the table, and you can�t spot the sucker, it�s probably you.�
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
"Ghost World" was the best movie I've seen in a LONG damn time. The key to a great movie is that it's its own world --
a self-contained universe. "Bringing Up Baby" is one such example, so is "Vertigo" and "For a Few Dollars More." Any of Billy Wilder's movies, too. This one was one of them.
I love Enid. A teenage H.L. Mencken, she skewers pretentious poseurs and tips over sacred cows. But, underneath her outer punk persona, there is a soft-hearted hero-worshipper. Her predicament is that she's stranded on a social desert island and uses cynicism as a shield to protect her from the hopeless banality in which heroes and passion are deemed passe by people who walk through life questioning nothing, but just parroting the answers they've picked up from the larger society.
"Ghost World" abounds in social commentary, but doesn't fall into the schmaltzy trap of trying to "solve" the world's social ills. Although on the surface Enid is directionless, she nonetheless has a mania for sketching a diary of the oddballs and weirdos that make up her small town. An excellent artist and charicaturist, Enid ends up failing art class TWICE.
Her airheaded hippy/burnout art teacher, Roberta (Illeana Douglas), is a walking cliche of a total conformist affecting an air of anti-authoritarianism. She blows off Enid's diary and her cartoons of Don Knotts, but pushes her students to instead produce so-called "controversial" art. A really dead-on scene is when one of Roberta's sycophantic students creates a sculpture out of coathangers, which represents "a woman's right to choose, something I feel super-strongly about." It's a gem of a parody on political art in which the politics are much stronger than the art. I was rolling on the floor when Roberta's real bad college art film "Mirror/Father/Mirror" clip was playing. God damn, that rings true. Roberta doesn't encourage the artistic impulse so much as pushing her agenda on the students to be "controversial" and "confront people's attitudes."
So, Enid decides to spoof Roberta and bring in a "found object" of a Jim Crow charicature from the 1920s of "Coon's Chicken," which depicts a monkey-like negro. This pisses off the other students (who were sotto voce receiving the message that they should only confront people with PC controversy), but the irony of the movie is in how Roberta reacts to the Jim Crow poster; Enid can't get the time of day from her when it comes to her own talented artwork, but her jokes on Roberta's inanities wins Roberta over to her cause and even inspires Roberta to get Enid a scholarship to art college. All this falls apart when Roberta enters the piece in an exhibit, and the local censors force her to remove the poster and fail Enid in her class. Her capitulation reveals her devotion to "controversy" and "confrontation" to be a hollow pose, and she covers her [rear] by letting Enid be the lamb to the slaughter.
The relationship between Enid and Seymour (Steve Buscemi) evinces Enid's yearnings to find someone to look up to, rather than down upon. I liked Steve Buscemi a lot. I'm so used to him playing funny roles, that it was sort of incongruous seeing him play it (mostly) straight in a comedic movie, but it worked quite well. Like Enid, Seymour is a middle-aged outcast, and at first becomes the victim to one of Enid's and her best friend Rebecca's (Scarlett Johansson) cruel pranks. But underneath the nerdish and pitiful exterior, Enid comes to discover in Seymour someone as isolated and alientated from society as she is. She finds in him a noble soul, whose passions are worn less on his sleeve than Enid's are, but locked up in his 1920s-themed room dedicated to his 78 rpm blues and ragtime records and poster art from the same era. Enid sees in Seymour a lot of herself, but also someone who has been run over once too many times in life and whose social rebellions have shrivelled into repressed loneliness. Enid finds in Seymour a hero, and gushes "I'd kill for a room like this" when complimenting his passion for nostalgia. To which Seymour -- who has given up on the possibility of ever fitting in or finding love -- replies "go ahead, kill me."
By the movie's end, Seymour starts asserting his inwardly pent-up feelings to relate to the world through his romance with Enid. Finally getting up the nerve to break up with Dana, a nice, though conventionally-thinking person, in order to be with Enid, who shares his passions, and thinks like he does, Seymour nonetheless has his love for Enid somewhat unrequited. Just as the revelation that Seymour deserves happiness manifests itself, Enid alientates herself from the world -- and the two people she most treasured in the world, Seymour and Rebecca. A happy ending does not win the day, because Enid is compelled to travel down the same lonely path that Seymour has. Perhaps in twenty years, she will have become what he is now.
As I recall, this movie was nomimated for absolutely NOTHING by the Academy of Motion Pictures "Arts and Sciences." And yet, this was the best movie in a year barren of talent, originality and true cinematic art. Now I understand why this movie is called "Ghost World."
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
Touted as a film on "over 140 Top Ten Lists" and "Best Film of the Year," "Ghost World" really works. The fact that I had to watch it twice just to finish it doesn't mean much. I fell asleep the first time. I was tired and the movie was boring. Nix that. Because I was tired, the movie was boring.

The second time I was totally alert to this film rife with meaning. Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlet Johannson) have been friends for ten years and have that mental telepathy of friendship of the closest kind. However, their friendship is based on being outsiders and isolated from the slightest connection with others, thus a friendship by default.

Cynical and world-weary even as a recent graduate from high school, Enid finally finds a job in a movie theater doling out snacks to wary and unwary moviegoers. Enid does not mince words and if she says, How much chemical sludge do you want on your popcorn?, you really can't blame the supervisor for firing her.

The fact that the two young women are going to get an apartment together means a job is essential. Score a negative for Enid. Rebecca is disappointed. Again Rebecca expresses disapproval of Enid's cynical nature concerning boys. None is any good! The viewer can watch Rebecca's slow, yet discernible twist away from her best friend in this significant summer of growth. Change is inevitable, life is inexorable.

The second weak link of summer is Enid's art class which she must pass to keep her diploma. The art teacher is a pseudo-hippy, quarking out artisms, not to impress, but because she is a product of this Ghost World. What has meaning? Art? What kind of art?

Two oddities stream out of this segment: the poster Enid submits to make a statement and the art that is real, Enid's notebook of art created because she really is talented.

The poster unifies the film in that it is the possession of Seymour (Steve Buscemi), an older version of Enid, disillusioned, unsettled with the world at large, and a citizen in the world of his own making. Seymour is Enid's hero and she unlikely bonds with him mentally and physically.

Sleepwalk. The major characters sleepwalk through their lives, until Rebecca wakes up to self in the grand way that recent graduates can do. Enid becomes more entrenched in her self-imposed isolation in this Ghost World. It's not a happy film, but then life does not always offer happiness. Take it the way you find it or change it. That's what Enid does. (Intentional ambiguity)
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on October 30, 2002
Format: DVD
When I first saw an advertisement for the Ghost World DVD I expected it to be another teen comedy like American Pie, but I was pleasantly surprised when I found out that Terry Zwigoff directed it since I really enjoyed the heck out of Crumb. Ghost World is about what you would expect after seeing Crumb, though Crumb was an actual documentary and this is fiction. There really isn't a typical plot, but the characters are really great. If you despise most contemporary culture--MTV, rap music, sports bars, frat boys, business majors, fake fifties diners, and so on--then you'll most likely embrace the misanthropic spirit of this film. It doesn't provide any simple answers, but it's still a cathartic experience watching the film's star, Enid, reject everything around her. If movies like American Pie make you angry, if TV shows like MTV's Real World make you want to vomit, if you feel alienated by every popular song played on the radio, and feel that maybe the Earth would be a better place if it were struck by an asteroid, then this DVD is a must-buy.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on January 20, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
This film belongs to Thora Birch. Expanding on her American Beauty character Birch demonstrates an uncanny knack of bouncing other characters off her own with no attempt at scene stealing or undercutting. As Enid she plays a recent high school graduate who in contrast to her only friend Rebecca, played by Scarlett Johansson, finds herself living in a world given over to vacuous banality and pretense.
The increasing alienation scares Enid and she armors herself with heavy boots, a series of costumes & a sketch book and defends her fragile hold on sanity with cutting sarcasm and put-downs.
Unlike Rebecca for whom this type of disdain is merely a convenience Enid is not popular & knows it, hence her gradual rejection of 'cool' and increasing interest in the affairs of Seymour (Steve Buscemi) a collector of archaic 78RPM records and other nefarious vintage material.
The history of this film, unconventional director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb) and the semblance of plot are discussed elsewhere & in any case nothing more than an open mind is necessary to appreciate the scathing critique of American Pop. Phony is routed out and exposed in every possible way and co-opted victims wander like zombies through their assumed personifications.
The fact that these erstwhile comic book creations are now being played out by animate human beings lends a pathos difficult to define. Enid's father, (Bob Baliban), his fiance 'The Maxine', (Teri Garr), Seymour's room-mate, the clown like employees at restaurants, movie houses, book shops, Enid's air-head art instructor (Illeana Douglas). None are spared.
As Enid begins to realize that she has crossed a line with no hope of return her search becomes more frenetic and unpredictable. Her relationship with Rebecca crumbles. Seymour becomes a victim & Enid herself departs in a hauntingly allegorical final scene, beautifully filmed against a blueish background of telegraph poles, concrete, mindless grafitti and the emptiness of Americana.
There is comedy here, fortunately, but Birch with a mastery reminiscent of the young Jodi Foster plays her part straight to the very end & end it surely is. Any other interpretation is as fanciful as the 'cool' now so blatantly issuing forth from every media source and advertiser nation wide.
If you liked " You Can Count On Me" see this film. It is a companion piece in every sense.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format: VHS TapeVerified Purchase
"Ghost World" wins my award for best movie of the past ten years. The key to a great movie is that it's its own world -- a self-contained universe. "Bringing Up Baby" is one such example, so is "Vertigo" and "For a Few Dollars More." Any of Billy Wilder's movies, too. This one was one of them.
I love Enid (played by Thora Birch, whose character is much more three-dimensional than the girl she played in "American Beauty."). A teenage H.L. Mencken, Enid skewers pretentious poseurs and tips over sacred cows. But, underneath her outer punk persona, there is a soft-hearted hero-worshipper. Her predicament is that she's stranded on a social desert island and uses cynicism as a shield to protect her from the hopeless banality in which heroes and passion are deemed passe by people who walk through life questioning nothing, but just parroting the answers they've picked up from the larger society.
"Ghost World" abounds in social commentary, but doesn't fall into the schmaltzy trap of trying to "solve" the world's social ills. Although on the surface Enid is directionless, she nonetheless has a mania for sketching a diary of the oddballs and weirdos that make up her small town. An excellent artist and charicaturist, Enid ends up failing art class TWICE.
Her airheaded hippy/burnout art teacher, Roberta (Illeana Douglas), is a walking cliche of a total conformist affecting an air of anti-authoritarianism. She blows off Enid's diary and her cartoons of Don Knotts, but pushes her students to instead produce so-called "controversial" art. A really dead-on scene is when one of Roberta's sycophantic students creates a sculpture out of coathangers, which represents "a woman's right to choose, something I feel super-strongly about." It's a gem of a parody on political art in which the politics are much stronger than the art. I was rolling on the floor when Roberta's real bad college art film "Mirror/Father/Mirror" clip was playing. Wow, that rings true. Roberta doesn't encourage the artistic impulse so much as pushing her agenda on the students to be "controversial" and "confront people's attitudes."
So, Enid decides to spoof Roberta and bring in a "found object" of a Jim Crow charicature from the 1920s of "Coon's Chicken," which depicts a monkey-like negro. This angers the other students (who were sotto voce receiving the message that they should only confront people with PC controversy), but the irony is in how Roberta reacts to the Jim Crow poster; Enid can't get the time of day from her when it comes to her own talented artwork, but her jokes on Roberta's inanities wins Roberta over to her cause and even inspires Roberta to get Enid a scholarship to art college. All this falls apart when Roberta enters the piece in an exhibit, and the local censors force her to remove the poster and fail Enid in her class. Her capitulation reveals her devotion to "controversy" and "confrontation" to be a hollow pose, and she covers her rear by letting Enid be the lamb to the slaughter.
The relationship between Enid and Seymour (Steve Buscemi) evinces Enid's yearnings to find someone to look up to, rather than down upon. I liked Steve Buscemi a lot. I'm so used to him playing funny roles, that it was sort of incongruous seeing him play it (mostly) straight in a comedic movie, but it worked quite well. Like Enid, Seymour is a middle-aged outcast, and at first becomes the victim to one of Enid's and her best friend Rebecca's (Scarlett Johansson) cruel pranks. But underneath the nerdish and pitiful exterior, Enid comes to discover in Seymour someone as isolated and alientated from society as she is. She finds in him a noble soul, whose passions are worn less on his sleeve than Enid's are, but locked up in his 1920s-themed room dedicated to his 78 rpm blues and ragtime records and poster art from the same era. Enid sees in Seymour a lot of herself, but also someone who has been run over once too many times in life and whose social rebellions have shrivelled into repressed loneliness. Enid finds in Seymour a hero, and gushes "I'd kill for a room like this" when complimenting his passion for nostalgia. To which Seymour -- who has given up on the possibility of ever fitting in or finding love -- replies "go ahead, kill me."
By the movie's end, Seymour starts asserting his inwardly pent-up feelings to relate to the world through his romance with Enid. ....
As I recall, this movie was nomimated for only one Oscar (best adapted screenplay) by the Academy of Motion Pictures "Arts and Sciences." And yet, this was the best movie in a year barren of talent, originality and true cinematic art. Now I understand why this movie is called "Ghost World."
The DVD version is better, because it is widescreen, however the transfer is clean on the VHS.
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