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Thora Birch (surely the perfect poster girl for all nerds, male and
female) stars as Enid, an intelligent, artistic and sensitive girl who
becomes friends with obsessive record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi)
after playing a mean joke on him. As her relationship with Seymour
develops, her bond with school-friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson)
begins to crumble.
Akin in many ways to introspective indie fare such as Lost in Translation, Napolean Dynamite, American Beauty, Secretary, and Sideways, Ghost World is a quirky, meandering, satirical study of social outcasts in a world that demands conformity, and, as such, isn't going to find much of a following with your average Blockbuster crowd.
Those hoping to see a laugh-out-loud comedy should definitely seek entertainment elsewhere: although there are some painfully accurate insights into the lives of its likable losers that will bring a wry smile to the faces of those who don't quite qualify as normal, the droll humour will leave Mr and Mrs. Average Joe straight faced and reaching for the off switch.
And anyone looking for a film with a feel-good factor should also hit the stop button: if you're not in the mood for a film that takes a leisurely, measured approach to a tale about doomed relationships and uncertainty about the future, you'll find the film rather annoying.
There are those, however, for whom the film will definitely resonate and no doubt become a firm favourite: disaffected youths, geeks, losers, and weirdos who are able to identify with the main characters' lack of direction in life and sense of confusion at the world around them. They (or should that be 'we'?) will be the ones to fully appreciate this subtle and poignant cinematic journey of self-discovery, which delivers excellent performances from its talented cast (Buscemi, in particular, is superb), confident direction from Terry Zwigoff, and a memorably daft character who sports a mean mullet and a pair of nunchuks!
"Ghost World" has high school outcasts Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) finally figuring out how to get back at the world that ignored them, via loner Seymour (Steve Buscemi). Everyone does a great job in their roles, and some of the scenes are hilarious (particularly the "8 1/2" scene). The world's outsiders will just love this movie. Even though Enid and Rebecca are outcasts, everyone will be able to relate to them. The Coon Chicken Inn is disturbing, but in the movie for a good reason. "Ghost World" is one of the many movies showing why indie flicks are better than Hollywood movies, and you'd better believe that it makes that point. Truly a gem of a movie.
GHOST WORLD is a remarkable social satire. I've loved this film ever
since I first saw it, but the more I see it, the better it gets.
Thora Birch, in the role of a lifetime, is indescribably convincing as the cynical, too-smart- for-her-own-good, devout outsider Enid. The way she totally becomes this character is uncanny. She is also aided at no small part by a remarkable, zinger-filled screenplay by Zwigloff and Daniel Klowes (the latter created the comic book this film is based on). I can't think of many films in recent years that allow as many brilliant, uninhibited, thought- provoking one-liners too come out of their characters mouths with the same consistency in which Enid spews them out. A pre-LOST IN TRANSLATION Scarlett Johannson is also wonderful in the crucial supporting role of Enid's best friend, who may have an easier time than Enid when it comes to swallowing the shallow artificial commercialization of the American life. But the hidden treasure in this gem is that remarkable character actor Steve Buscemi. Buscemi's been playing offbeat, fast-talking, short-tempered, fan-favorite characters for years but, like Bill Murray in LOST IN TRANSLATION and Adam Sandler in PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE, he gives the greatest performance of his career (so far anyway) by concentrating on what was the essence in the roots of all the characters he previously played: A painfully deep social frustration that would eat him alive, where it not for his only barely successful ability of convincing himself the way of the loner is the life for him. His beautifully understated and emotionally captivating portrayal of one-of-a-kind sad-sack Seymour, who admits "I can't relate to 99% percent of humanity", is the stuff a film lover's dreams are made of (and in a more fair and just world, the stuff that GUARANTEES you a f**king Oscar!).
This is one of my favorite films in recent memory. One of the greatest things about it is the versatility of the emotions it evokes. It has moments that are incredibly funny and moments that are painfully sad. There are some scenes that definitely hit close to home. I can't say that I can identify with Enid or Seymour on a regular basis, but there are definitely times in my life were I can feel their pain (probably more in the past than now), and there are many scenes whose effects are enhanced by how real they feel (Enid visiting Seymour because she needs someone to be nice to him, Seymour's frustration that his favorite musician is the opening act in some s**tty bar, Enid realizing that she is actually going to miss the school nerd, etc.).
This is a very special film. A
'Ghost World' is extremely hard to classify. It's certainly not another
teen movie; in fact it's the exact opposite of what we learned to
expect from that category. Calling it a comics flick would also give a
very wrong idea of what it is. It's certainly not a comedy, but it's
not really a drama either. If you really must know what kind of film is
it, think in the direction of 'Daria' but more intelligent, sensitive
and with three-dimensional characters (not only physically). Or, more
accurately, three three-dimensional characters making their way in a
two-dimensional world of cardboard and plastic.
The movie does have some very nice comedic moments, but it's more important traits are its atmosphere and symbolisms. It's beautiful and sensitive and creates a mesmerizing atmosphere, Making for a superb adaptation of Daniel Clowes's original graphic novel (though the story itself has little to do with that of the source). The directing (Terry Zwigoff in his first non-documentary) is masterful and very original and unique, the dialogue is sharp and intelligent (quite a lot of it is taken directly from the novel, but the rest is in very much the same spirit), and the actors are all superb; Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi as the more sophisticated characters make a fantastic job. They are strenghtened by the wonderful, mostly hilarious cartoonish stereotypes that surround them, like Enid's father (Gosford Park's Bob Balaban), the creepy John Ellis (Pat Healy), the pretentious art teacher (Illeana Douglas), and the obnoxious Melorra (Debra Azar). A wonderful movie all around.
There is a change, though hardly unnoticed, happening in the cinema world. More than ten years after the artistic revolution in comics, the graphic novel is finally being appreciated as a potential source for films, starting with the Hughes Brothers' excellent adaptation of Alan Moore's and Eddie Campbell's 'From Hell', soon followed by this adaptation of Daniel Clowes's classic. (I'm yet to see 'Sin City', but from all I've heard it may be the best one yet). Having been lucky enough to be in NY at precisely the time these two movies came out, I was thrilled to see the novels on which they were based in book stores... Some say comics is dead; i think it's just heading into a new phase.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed Ghost World. I felt like the character
Enid back in the 70s in high school. I still have a circle of friends
that collect old 78 records and antique telephones. However, I didn't
go out of my way to be hurtful towards others. That's where I think
this film went a bit overboard.
I did feel for Enid as she was stuck in a nowhere of a town and just could not connect to the people and happenings around her. The film's ending was rather poignant and I actually got a bit teary-eyed over that moment. It's just that Enid's callous behaviour became increasingly annoying and tiresome by the end of the film, and it made it a bit difficult for me to relate to her and root for her.
For example, she got louder and more obnoxious in the porn shop, completely ignoring Semour's pleas for her to just settle down. She also had this problem of being able to "dish it out but not take any back" in a manner best examplified by her constant ridiculing of others openly, yet throwing a complete fit when she was criticized for her green hair and punk outfit. I know wayyy too many teens who act like this, they feel they have a complete right to hurt others yet GOD FORBID you do it to them back. Then, there was her "have her cake and eat it too" problem where she was infatuated with Seymour yet continuously gave him grief. As for her father, I know he was not a strong personality, but he gave her everything she could want and she would just glare at him.
The supporting characters helped this film for me, particularly Rebecca. I don't see her as "conforming" at all, but rather finding her meant direction. Most of her shared ridiculing of others was basically in support of Enid. We see that while others' lives might not be what we would want, but they've still found a degree of happiness: Rebecca, Enid's father, and even Seymour.
I don't think Enid was a bad person, she just couldn't connect. Thus, the wonderful ending in which you get the feeling she'll find her place somewhere and that actually made me happy for her.
Unfortunately the younger folk I know that have said this film "rocked" were of the sort that find gloomy fashionable and go out of their way to just be the opposite of everyone. Sort of like the kids on a Jenny Jones show that are all decked out in punk and goth and say "I'm just expressing myself and being an individual," yet actually if they looked at the other kids saying that, they all looked exactly the same. Sheep mentality on another level. There's a difference in being "unique and different" and TRYING to be unique and different on PURPOSE. Many have missed the point of this film in that manner. I think Enid truly was different, just a bit more on a negative level and frustrated that she couldn't get herself to try to look a little deeper to see what she might really want in life. Aw heck, at this writing I'm 39 years old and I still am searching, but at least I know common courtesy towards others.
Despite its flaws, I still was left more satisfied than angry after viewing Ghost World. If it wasn't for that brilliant ending, I might not be as nice about the film.
A significant number of reviews I have read regarding Ghost World complain
about "nothing" happening. This is simply untrue. Having read the book by
Daniel Clowes and being sceptical and admiring of it in roughly equal
measure, I was very pleased to see the film far surpassed the book in
excellence. Another book that can be likened to Ghost World is The Catcher
in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and even The Graduate shares themes with Ghost
World. The narrative revolves in all three around characters who have
reached a juncture in their life where the road splits many different ways,
The wonderful thing about Ghost World, however, is that Enid's reluctance to grow old is accentuated by the other characters ensuring their lives advance. Even Seymour "grows up" when he finally meets his attractive blonde. Constant reminders of Enid's immaturity make this film. When the two visit Josh's apartment and he is not in, Enid scrawls an immature and explicit note to him and hangs it on the door knob. But we hear Becky ask "Are you really gonna leave that?" This is one of the first signs of a difference between Becky and Enid. More follow, particularly the job hunting fiasco, in which Becky quickly finds and keeps her bum counter job in a coffee house, where as Enid jumps from job to job, her immature cynicism ensuring job loss.
Plenty happens in this film. Not least the ending, which, contrary to something I have read, is not an ending that the director rashly consturcting to rescue a failing storyline. Thankfully, the ending from the book was retained for the film, and it proves to be similarly poignant on screen. This is not a bus to nowhere, it is a bus out of nowhere. Enid finally finds a direction in her life - even if the direction is wide and undefined.
My only criticisms of Ghost World is that 1) the directing was tepid, showing little flare whatsoever, which detracts from the film and 2) Enid's university application in the book was not kept in the film. This was a particularly pivotal point in the book I felt, and it was unfortunate it was not kept in the film.
However, the acting is enjoyable - Buscemi is wonderful as the lugubrious Seymour and Birch is commendable as Enid. The comedy is a plus point in the film, however, I object to it being defined as a comedy, as the book was not and people may have seen this film expecting incisive comedy when the real story is far far more subtle than the frank comedy.
Definitely see this film. The desperate nature of the two protagonists is quite heartbreaking, the comedy characters are suitably cliched to ensure lightweight laughs (such as the hilarious store manager), and the ending is very good.
I give this film eight out of ten.
This is a very funny and sad movie about two girls (Enid and Rebecca) just entering the real world trying to figure out what to do with life, just as Seymour, a middle aged man, struggles through his own life as he has trouble relating to other people. While Enid and Rebecca discover that life outside of high school isn't as great as they imagined it to be, Seymour (who already knows about the loneliness of life) tries for once in his life to actually start living instead of just floating through life. Steve Buscemi, who plays Seymour, has one of his most memorable performances, and Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson are perfect fits for their roles. Anyone who feels like they don't quite fit in with society will surely find something to like in this movie. There has never been a teen movie like this, and there probably isn't any that are better than this. And don't forget about the old man waiting for the bus. Could this old man have the answer?
This film is well outside of mainstream movie making and is largely a successful effort in displaying the pains of leaving high school and entering adulthood today, particularly for those in the middle class who don't have the structure of college or military service to help organize their time. The movie certainly makes you squirm and think about our current mass culture. For example, it's display of the downside potential of political correctness -- how easliy one can be misunderstood and branded as racist when handling sensitive material with irony or other intelligent twist -- was brilliantly handled and very painful to view. Also of note, Steve Buscemi's character appears as a cleaner version of R. Crumb, the great cartoonist/artist who director Zwigoff earlier made a successful film on. His physical appearance, his love of music from the thirties and forties, his awkward and sensitive attraction to the young and buxom Laura Birch character -- this stood out for me as another plus with the film. Not a film for everyone, but clearly worthwhile for those who are used to the off-beat. 8/10.
Having seen this film because of the high rating on imdb I was left
blank after watching it. I really was asking myself if I had missing
The film is totally empty, boring and certainly not a comedy. One of the very few films I absolutely disagree with imdbs rating.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I watched this movie with my girlfriend and we both had the same
reaction at the end. "What was that?" was pretty much our reaction.
This movie isn't awful because it is well acted and funny at times, Enid's father is hilarious, but it just doesn't go anywhere. The main character in the movie, Thora Birch, plays a recent high school graduate who has this "I'm so much better than everybody else" attitude. Everything she sees around her she considers "sucky" in some way. However, she ends up befriending a lonely record collector and this is when the story began to get interesting. I won't go into spoiler details but she pretty much ruins Seymour's chance at happiness because she becomes jealous when Seymour begins to see and like a woman Enid pleaded with him to meet originally. She is a twisted little girl.
I was thinking about the title too. I believe the title is not about her living in a "ghost world" per se, it is the opposite. She is actually the one living as a ghost in the world. She goes thru life like a ghost. Her attitude ostracizes her from her best girlfriend and her friend Seymour whom she ends up misleading into a life of misery when he was so close to finding true happiness. She went thru life, not as a person with hopes and dreams, but as a ghost, dead inside and raining on everyone's parade. And what does she do at the end? She rides off into the sunset as a ghost would...unseen, without a sound and with nobody to really care. She actually tells Seymour this is her fantasy earlier in the picture. An odd tale about what can happen if you poison your friendships and life with negative attitudes, lies, and jealousy.
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