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I went in to Ghost World expecting an oddball comedy, so I was surprised by the nuance, depth, and emotional complexity of this film. There are some funny moments, certainly, but the whole movie is just too deep, dark, and meaningful to be dismissed as mere comedy. Your reaction to the film may well depend on what kind of person you are - or were back in school. If you were cool and ran with the in crowd, you'll probably laugh - condescendingly, of course - at the losers who make up the main characters of the story. If you were an oddball and have drunk deeply from the waters of alienation, however, you will feel a real kinship with these characters. The only bad thing about this film is the fact that there isn't enough of Scarlett Johansson in it. It's really all about the character of Enid (Thora Birch), an incredibly complex character who wears alienation like a crown and tries to avoid total decimation at the hands of a cruel, mixed-up life. We start out with Enid and her friend Rebecca (Johansson), but - for obvious reasons - Rebecca has a lifeline to normalcy and makes a much better transition to post-high school existence than her friend. The fact that her partner is crime begins to grow apart from her only makes Enid's journey all the more difficult to navigate - and there is much to fuel her contempt for the world.

The plan is for Enid and Rebecca to gets jobs and rent an apartment together, playing pranks and generally complaining about how fake and stupid everyone else is in their spare time. After Rebecca starts working, though, you can start to see that her heart's just not in their long-held plans, while Enid just sort of sleepwalks through each day with no purpose whatsoever - apart from attending the remedial art class she has to take during the summer. She does find a project for herself, though - one extremely weird fellow named Seymour (Steve Buscemi). Of course, it begins with her setting the hapless Seymour up on a fake blind date and watching him suffer through the internal agony of being stood up. She follows him, though, and the two strike up an unusual friendship. Seymour is a great collector of classic jazz and blues records and an odd assortment of other things, and he basically lives in that forgotten world he has recreated for himself. Enid sets out to find Seymour a girlfriend - which is quite a project indeed, as Seymour is almost hopelessly undesirable in the eyes of the world (or at least the 99% of it that Enid hates so much).

Then Enid's world starts closing in on her in all sorts of ways. Always alienated, she now begins to feel completely alone, and she basically keeps sabotaging her chances of reversing course (which is an unfortunate habit most of us weirdoes seem to have). Every day brings bad news on some front. By this point, the comedy is basically over and done with, and the final third of the film comes across as a nuanced, poignant look at this poor soul who truly doesn't know what she is going to do with the rest of her life - or even tomorrow, for that matter.

I could say more, but this is really one of those films that you can't really explain. There's no real sense of closure when the movie ends, but that is indicative of life itself - and that is really what Ghost World is all about. Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi give inspired performances that will stay with you, Scarlett Johansson is marvelous, and some oddball characters (such as Numchuck Guy) round the film out quite well. It's quirky, but quirky is almost always good. I'm not sure how older people will react to this sort of film, but the younger generation will see much of themselves somewhere in this weird story, making Ghost World one of the most impressive coming-of-age movies of the new millennium.
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on July 12, 2004
Here's an unHollyowood film about life, roles, friendship and departure that transcends most of the trash available on the big or little screen. I saw this on TV last night, followed by the big screen spectacular "Three Kings". It was more than clear to me which film was about ideas and real life, and which one was a cure for insomnia. I'll talk about the one about ideas and real life.
Unlike the Amazon synopsis and Leonard Maltin's opinion, this movie is not about alienation. It is about a cynical high school graduate's attempt to find a niche to fit into when her world undergoes changes she cannot understand. Thora Birch ("American Beauty") is very good as the high school graduate with a dark view of everything in the world...until she meets milquetoast record collector Steve Buscemi. There is a good deal of cliche in this meeting but it serves to break the holocaust of darkness in her life, which is compounded by her best friend changing roles, her schlemiel father being an empty, vacuous figure in her life, and her indecision about what to do with her own life.
Birch focuses on loser Buscemi, trying to improve his lot in life. She successfully helps set him up with another woman, then injects herself in his life in a way to locate her own life when everyone she knows seemingly abandons her. When this fails, she follows the pattern of the only other stable role model in her life, a mentally ill middle age man who sits at a bus stop, waiting for a bus that never arrives. When his bus one day arrives, she decides to take it, too, as the movie ends.

This is Birch's final removal from the world, the alienation most critics disucssed. I prefer to think of it as role acceptance, as finding her niche, as getting to a place she wants. This very simple film portrays a reality for many high school kids that come from single parent homes and lack direction after school. It tells a real story in an uncomfortable circumstance. People that enjoy nice neat stories in films will be very distrubed watching this. People whose minds look for meaning in film portrayals will become more involved the longer the movie goes on.
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on July 7, 2004
From reviews I'd read, I expected to be blown away by Ghost World--much the way I'd been blown away by American Beauty and Lost in Translation. I wasn't. It's a good movie, mind you. Interesting characters who feel very genuine albeit somewhat one dimensional, and an odd tangle relationships. It also very effectively captures the alienation of smart teens growing up in a world that seems populated by zombies of one kind or another. So, it's very much worthwhile watching it--maybe more than once. (I can't help but think of Thora Birch as a smart version of Kelly Osbourne from her dress and mannerisms in this movie. But that's neither here nor there.)
So what's wrong with it? What keeps it from being great? In part, it's the almost relentlessly brooding tone that keeps the characters from being fully realized human beings. Maybe, just maybe, there are people as unreliable, aimless, and alienated all the time--just like Thora Birch's character. But do we really need a movie about someone who is so malignantly morose? And no one else in the movie really picks up the slack, showing that intelligent people can be sharp and effective, as well as cynical. Without that counterpoint, the story has a mushy center, and starts to get--well--a little boring.
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on July 5, 2004
There is a very, very interesting generation of young actresses in Hollywood. Not only they are pretty, but also they are very talented, and they usually choose to appear in independent movies rather than appear in summer Blockbusters. That generation includes interesting actresses like Sarah Polley, Christina Ricci, Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson, to name a few. Luckily in "Ghost World" appear Thora and Scarlett.
When "Ghost World" was released, a lot of people, included myself, were impressed with Thora Birch, a young actress with a unique beauty and talent. So after I saw her in "American Beauty", I couldn't wait to see her in another movie, and that film is "Ghost World", an independent movie that explores in an unique way the complex transition of the teenage days to the "real world".
"Ghost World" has a very talented cast, in addition to Thora, we can find Scarlett Johansson and Steve Buscemi. Scarlett steals the show in "Ghost World", obviously it was expected to be Thora's movie, but Scarlett is very solid in this movie and she got the attention of other independent filmmakers like Sofia Coppola, two years later, Sofia Coppola cast Scarlett to appear in "Lost In Translation", so "Ghost World" was the "commercial" breakthrough of Scarlett. Plus, she is gorgeous.
Steve Buscemi, another independent spirit, also steals a lot of scenes in "Ghost World", we know him very well from other films like "Fargo" or "Reservoir Dogs". With such acting talent, "Ghost World" is a must-see. The movie offers a unique point of view of the teenage world, this is not your regular "American Pie" movie, so I recommend "Ghost World" to fans of independent cinema.
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on July 3, 2004
I never would have known this movie existed if it wasn't for my sister who insisted I watch it. This is a good movie, but to be honest it's not something I would want to watch again just because it's a bit bland and slow for my taste.
It's about Enid (Birch) and Rebecca (Johansen), two girls who just graduated and have little direction in life. Rebecca is a bit more stable, opting to get a job and find an apartment of her own. Enid on the other hand finds joy in drawing random people's pictures, "torturing" the guy who works at the convenient store, and befriending a strange, older man called Seymour (Buscemi) who doesn't really like anything, just like her. They find solace in each other.
It's a strange film and chugs along at it's own pace, showing us only what we need to make up our minds about their own little world. The film does have it's moments and is in fact wonderfully written. Check this one out if you haven't and find out what you think about this one because honestly, you have to see this one for yourself.
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on June 14, 2004
Focusing on the themes of friendship, loyalty, dreams, the future, and the quirks of a teen's life, "Ghost World" is an exciting adventure leading insight into the life of a newly graduated teen.
The story is about two best friends freshly out of high school. In their search for a future they would enjoy, they run across opposition from their parents and peers. They are trying to find a place where they belong in the world. Focusing on one of the girls, it portrays her inner tumult about the decisions she must make. This girl meets an older eccentric man and decides to befriend him and add color to his life. She feels sorry for this man and feels she can help him. She ends up falling in love with him even though she is 18 and he is 40. Through trying to help this man she has only complicated her own life more. When the man she is helping falls in love with a woman his own age (who the girl has set him up with) the girl sabotages the relationship and ends up ruining her friendship with the older man too. She becomes very depressed and dissatisfied with her life at this point. Her best friend is pressuring her to get a job and move into an apartment with her. She doesn't feel ready for this choice yet and holds back. Meanwhile on the home front her father has told her he is going to marry someone who she hates. At this point she is very displeased with her own actions and with the people around her. Finally she decides to follow her own dreams. She finds a random bus and gets on it. This has always been her dream to do and she finally does it.
This movie portrays an interesting aspect to all of our lives. I think at some point this is what everyone wants to do. Just get on a bus and leave all your cares behind. This story really brings about a human connection between the characters that makes you feel as if you know them. I think the author, through this story, is trying to express his concern for the world. He shows one lone girl and the weight of her problems and a lonely man. The author is trying to tell others to just follow their own dreams instead of trying to live someone else's life for them. I think the author is hoping that when people watch this they will try to relate it to their own lives and make better choices themselves.
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on June 7, 2004
From a first glance, "Ghost World" appears to be your ordinary teen comedy/drama when in reality nothing could be further from the truth. This is a strange and very well made film that is touching, funny, sad and twisted. One of those rare gems that did not fall victim to a "Hollywood" formula. I don't know why it took me so long to finally watch this, but I'm glad that on a day when I had nothing to do that I decided to pop this into the DVD player.
Based on the underground comic book by Daniel Clowes, the story focuses on two characters who have just graduated from high school, Enid and Rebecca. They love to snoop around in other people's lives and find ways to humiliate them for their own amusement. When they play a practical joke on an isolating loner, Seymour, Enid can't help to feel a little guilty--which is something she never feels in similar situations. She ends up forming a strange and open relationship with him after that, and that's when things become complicated for Enid. While Rebecca has more of a focus on where to go next after finishing high school, Enid doesn't have a clue about her future. She feels trapped in a dead end town that offers no sanctuary for her. All of this makes way for a drama/comedy that sticks out from other films.
I had been told many times that this was a movie that I had to see, and now I finally understand why. It was completely different from what I thought the movie would end up being. It's funny and sad at the same time, which is a very difficult task to accomplish without it ending up being corny. The movie is very well written (co-written by the very man who did the comic book), with very realistic dialogue and characters. The movie doesn't really feel like a movie, because it feels like real life. You feel like you know these characters and have seen them before. We all went to school with people like this at some point. That's when you know when something really works--when you feel like you are there.
One of the great things about the movie is that there is not a big payoff in the end. There's on grand finale or an ending that lets you know that everything is going to be all right. I know this was a disappointment for some people, but I couldn't envision the film ending in any other way. It's a realistic and beautiful moment. And to me, that was the greatest payoff you could find. It also shows you that this film refuses to conform to Hollywood standards, which is always refreshing.
The DVD has a few things to offer--"few" being the keyword here. Don't get me wrong, I was happy with the features that were included, but I was hoping there'd be a few more goodies for a standout movie like this. The picture and sound is very good, so no problems there. Extras included are deleted and alternate scenes, a "making of" featurette, trailers and a music video. I think a great opportunity was missed here, as this is the perfect movie that screams for a commentary from the cast and crew. Despite the fact that it isn't loaded with a ton of extras, it's still a very nice package.
"Ghost World" is a phenomenal achievement in filmmaking, in my opinion. True, it is not something that everybody will be head-over-heels for, but those who end up loving it will really appreciate it for what it is. It's a film that takes risks and never falls into a basic movie formula. If you're looking for a movie that is different from the rest, this is an excellent choice. A superb film on all fronts. -Michael Crane
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on May 18, 2004
"Ghost World" is Terry Zwigoff's very off beat comedy drama about Enid (Thora Birch), a high school graduate who still has to take a remidial summer art class, even though she would rather be out causing mischief with her friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansann). One day they plays a cruel joke by responding to a lonely hearts ad in the newspaper, and then standing him up at a diner. Later on Enid runs across him, whos name is Seymore (played near straight by indi great Steve Buscemi) and finds out they actually have a lot in common, like alianation toward most people and old folk music. As she grows closer to eccentric Seymore, once rebellious Rebecca becomes a 'normal person'. The movie is not a streight forward romance, as you might think at first. It is really about finding out that if you are a nonconformist, you're not alone. It is really hard to say what the movie is about, because it will very from person to person depending on your attitudes and ideals. Most people don't get Enid; she has a sense of humor and outlook on life that is levels above everyone else. That she is smart, there is no doubt. Is she misunderstood by everyone? Very much so. She says she dosn't care if anyone gets her; but that is not true. The first time she finds that Seymore understands her, she digs into him with both claws. The cast dose a incredible job, but with this cast you can't expect less than greatness. Although I have to say that the Art Teacher, played by Illeana Douglas, is very funny (and thought provoking) as a wholely sensitized liberal who way over analyizes junk. If you can find this movie somewhere, I recommend it. Hollywood is not likely to make a lot of gems like this often.
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on April 25, 2004
What an amazingly honest movie, and what an amazing character it had in Enid... One reviewer characterized her as someone who is "unwilling to grow up even as the world is moving on;" I guess it depends on your definition of "growing up." In Ghost World, which IS our world, "growing up" means compromising, laughing at bad jokes, pretending to enjoy atrocious and mediocre music, faking orgasms, all in the name of "being normal," "fitting in," "having a career" ... This is what Enid is rejecting, and "adults" who have "grown up" in such a fashion are the targets of her withering sarcasm. Her tragedy is that she is either not smart or literate enough to know what to substitute for this phoniness, and she may be forgiven for this, because I don't think there are many people who do. This movie is primarily about Enid's restless search for something - but neither she nor audience knows what it is. For most of high school, she has a friend who shares her outlook on the world, but eventually she chenges, and becomes more conventinal. Why? Perhaps because she realizes that she's not getting her point across, because quite simply, everyone is too stupid and shallow to care. Enid also understands this, but for her, retreat is not an option - she would rather be openly unhappy than to live a phony life with self-deluding infusions of happiness. Hence, the movie's ending.
P.S. The movie was, as many critics have pointed out, startlingly realistic in the way it portrayed people, their speech and mannerisms. For me, it threw out any pretense to realism when that blonde called Seymour back, and they actually ended up together!! My friends, in 4.5 billion years planets can form out of a primordial gas cloud, seas and continents can emerge and intelligent life can blossom on planet Earth, but a real-life gorgeous blonde (or a brunette, for that matter) would never EVER have called back a guy like Seymour. I should know.
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on April 22, 2004
Terry Zwigoff's "Ghost World" is the anonymous Anytown USA, landscaped with strip malls, drive-up ATM windows, expresso bars, mini-marts, tanning parlors and a burger franchise on every corner. It's the place where the bus no longer runs, except in the mind of an old man on the bench. "Ghost World" is where everyone has big hair, drives an SUV, and wears designer clothers. It's tough to be a kid in "Ghost World" where your choices are limited to joining the "in-crowd" or, developing a highly refined sense of irony, as does our heroine, Enid. "Ghost World" is a brilliantly conceived film by Zwigoff, the director of the riveting documentary about the life and times of undergound comic artist, R.Crumb. Steve Bushemi plays Seymour, a charmingly eccentric collector of odd cultural artifacts who sometimes appears to be an alter-ego aforementioned Mr. Crumb. Thora Birch's Enid, is a directionless recent high school graduate (sort of) who has lost her bearings in a sea of suburban mediocrity. You will seldom see a more tender and complex relationship portrayed as the relationship between by Bushemi and Birch. They are two doomed outsiders who view the transparency of human relationships with intelligent irony. This is a small movie that should be a runaway success, but never will be. In "Ghost World", we like big action packed blockbuster movies. If you've ever questioned the society you live in, this one's for you. I absolutely loved this movie. It has great characters and writing, a distinctive and colorful visual style, and some vicious satire. Plus, the much-loved Steve Buscemi has his greatest role ever. Every single scene has virtually no obligatory lines, and is both moving and hilariously funny. Thora Birch proves she can carry a movie and Steve Buscemi gives his career best; they're both oscar-worthy.
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