World is Ethereal Perfection"
films are all the rage anymore. It seems that every studio in
Hollywood is clamoring to fill their production dockets with a
ragtag group of movies featuring every young, fresh-faced actor
they can find (most of them seemingly being supplied by the WB
Network’s never-ending reserve). Why? For one thing, they’re
incredibly cheap to produce. Another? Once in a while a studio
strikes gold with one of these pimple-free variants (American
Pie, Bring it On, Scream)
and the profits pour down like rain.
problem: 90% of these films stink. So much so that the thought
of sitting through another one – no matter how promising it
looks on paper – is almost like the thought of nails on a
it must be admitted that going in to Ghost
World there was a little trepidation on my part. As much as
I loved Terry Zwigoff’s prior film, the sublime and brilliant
documentary Crumb, I
knew nothing of Daniel Clowes graphic novel on which the film
was based and documentary directors are typically hit-and-miss
when they make the transition to features.
said, Ghost World is
one of a handful of must-see films to come out this year. Like
other modern-day teen classics Rushmore
and Election, it has a
quirky sensibility that while inherently realistic seldom
translates to success at the box office. It’s a sneaky, snide
and cynical masterpiece of urban dystopia seen through the eyes
of youth and ranks as one of the best American films so far this
this case, it’s youth through the eyes of Enid (Thora Birch, American
Beauty) and her best fried Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson, The
Horse Whisperer, Manny
& Lo), two supremely ironic teenagers now faced with the
uncertainty of life after high school. This life, in all it
surreal and eclectic nature, forces the girls to reexamine their
aspirations and ideas, putting strains on a relationship once
above the fray.
like in everyday reality, the film plays like a serious of small
vignettes interweaving characters and visions of everyday life
many have experienced but very few get a chance to see. The
vagaries of youth are played out amongst the flirtatious glances
towards the local convenience store clerk Josh (the dead-pan
perfect Brad Renfro who can be currently seen in Larry Clark’s
powerful Bully), a
friend the girl’s use to get around town in his rusted up car.
Thrown in the mix are Enid’s loving father (Bob Balaban, Close
Encounters of the Third Kind), an eccentric art teacher
(Illeana Douglas, To Die
For) and Seymour (the great Steve Buscemi) who at first
glance appears to be your stereotypical geeky collector but upon
further inspection is a stirringly deep and searching soul.
about this film works. Clowes and Zwigoff’s screenplay is a
model of original perfection, while the latter’s unerring
direction is sublime in its subtlety. Recovering nicely from the
disaster that was Dungeons
& Dragons, young Birch once more showcases her
radiant talent as an actress. If there was any justice in the
world she would be considered a front-runner for an Oscar
nomination but, as was proved by Reese Witherspoon in Election,
she’ll probably have to settle for an Independent Spirit
must be said, however, that all of the actors shine in Ghost
World. Balaban’s few scenes where his attempts at
communication with his daughter dissolve into unintelligible two
word sentences is funny and heartbreaking all at once, so close
to the reality of parent/child communication. Johansson and
Renfro hit their characters right on and Douglas once again
proves to be one of the most underutilized actors in Hollywood.
Yet, it’s Buscemi who truly stands out amongst the supporting
cast, making Seymour a richly drawn, deeply human creation.
It’s some of the best work the actor has ever done and it is
easy to see why he was the runner up for the Best Actor award at
this year’s Seattle International Film Festival.
is so much about this movie to love and cherish. Fleshing out
all its beautifully off-center layers takes multiple viewing and
the resolution is refreshingly unclear, much like life. In a
world of films that pertain to be about teenage and young adult
life yet hold nothing but the most quaint and cliché-ridden
ideals at heart, Ghost
World shines bright as a film that most be cherished.