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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 February 22, 2002
When I saw the trailers for GHOST WORLD, I was led to believe the overall tone of the movie would be a light, teenage comedy in the vein of say, Sixteen Candles. Sixteen Candles was (AND still is) a great coming-of-age movie, just so no one thinks I'm "dissing" it. In any case the trailer for GHOST WORLD, shall we say, was incomplete.
The movie offers so much more depth than you'd get from seeing the trailer. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson and Steve Buscemi all give us some of the best character-driven performances you will see in ANY movie from the past year. I didn't read the graphic novel the movie was based on, but it seems that the screenwriters and director have done a great job of translating it to film.
I think everyone who sees this movie will see bits of themselves in both Enid and Rebecca's lives. The feelings of not fitting in with your peer groups, not feeling attractive, not knowing what you're going to do with your life after graduation, etc. etc. will ring true with most of the movie's audience.
The relationship between Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi's characters is at the same time, complex and touching. When you see the movie, you'll understand how two unlikely people do make for good friends, even though they meet in an unconventional way. To tell you how they do would give away one of the movie's charming surprises.
My only negative comment would be that the ending is ambiguous and left me with one big question and no real direction for any answers. You'll have to watch GHOST WORLD to get my drift.
Overall an excellent story...
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on November 11, 2003
Well, sometimes you put together a slice-of-life film about two people who are totally clueless as to how to interact with society. So, we have this basic theme about self-deemed losers who are are totally unable (or totally unwilling) to adjust to and interact with the "Ghost World" around them.
On the surface, the two characters couldn't be anymore different, but both have the same motive for their indifferent attitudes towards the purpose of life. Enid is an immature teenager with a chip on her shoulder, struggling to find any sense of identity, let alone a direction. She comes from a broken home, living with a father who scarcely knows her. 40-year-old Seymour is more seasoned and is less naïve and more accepting of the way life treats him. He's an introverted bachelor music-nerd with a slew of unattractive habits and personality traits. Enid and Seymour are not rebelling from society--they are simply clueless and careless regarding their reputation among others. They both feel rejected and misunderstood, or as Seymour puts it, 'Some people, you just give them a Big Mac and a pair of Nikes and they're satisfied'. The two of them unite inauspiciously when Enid plays a cruel joke on Seymour, but quickly finds herself inquisitive of the man. She befriends him, and they hit it off relating to and trying to help each another with their problems. However, the movie ends with a sense of apathy and despair for both characters.
The supporting characters, with the exception of Enid's girlfriend, are chiefly there to add some badly-needed comedy to a somewhat dragging plot. The actors have a sharp script to sink their teeth into, with Steve Buschemi being the highlight-everything this man touches turns to gold! All things considered, a fantastic film that explores the depths of human loneliness and indifference.
Thank You
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on April 15, 2003
"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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on February 3, 2002
This is a great movie and one very few people are even famailir with. I had not planned on buying it actaully and would have not even seen it it till it hit pay per veiw in about six weeks but I was at the store looking around and saw it was out early and said what the hey and went ahead and spent twenty bucks and bought it with the beverly hills cop 1 and 2. I got home and opened the dvd and inserted it and was doumbfounded how great the story was. Steve Buessmii and Theora Birch should get oscar consideretion and the supporting cast of illeina Douglas and Scralett Johnson were good also. The only reason this is not getting five stars is dvd, It is a medicore release in terms of features I mean Bubble boy even has a commeentery track not that anybody would listen to it. Why did it not have atleat one, Another Mgm title I own Whats the Worst that could happen actaully has two as does Legally Blonde. This is a smart, Funny sad and charming movie all at once. So many movies have no intelligiance this one does. The movie is rated R for frequent profinity, But there is no sex or violence so if you are 14 it should be okay. In canda its rated 14a. The dvd does have a few features the theaatrical trailer which I had never seen before,a music spot for the soundtrack, Princess Bride and Termintor dvd spots, A few altrenate scenes, a rare music clip for Jaun Pehee Cahnn Perfomed by Mouhmand Rafi I did not really care for this and don't see why its on here and a brief 12 minute featuretee featuring intreviews with cast and crew.If the dvd had more features it would be nice, but am sure when this movie wins some award a new special edtion will be released and to tell you the truth I don't even mind buying it again.
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on April 12, 2004
Before you watch this movie don't get the idea of these 2 girls looking for ghost or something like that, like I did. When the movie was still rolling I was still wondering where do the ghost come in? But then I realized it is a metaphor for having no one around. It is a hilarious comedy with a 5 star cast. This movie was based upon the comic book by Daniel Clowes. This movie after you watch it, it will intrest you in the comic book. It is a great adaption.
The story goes as 2 seventeen year olds Enid and Rebecca (Thira Birch and Scarlette Johansson)who have just graduated from highschool looking for an apartment. Then they come across and old record collector Seymour(Steve Buscemi)who then him and Enid become close friends. Then Rebecca gets annoyed by it and decides not to be Enids friend. Enid tries dozens of times to connect Seymour with a girl. But then Seymour isn't much of a ladys man. Seymour and Enid then fall in love then to realize they can't be together. Showing the true meaning of "Ghost World".
This is a definate must see film. Definite 5 star everything. It is the best film of 2001.
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on November 19, 2001
No matter how unmanagable, anti-social or hopeless a teenager is, it's always assumed that it's just a phase, that eventually you will take your proper place in society, get a job and home, begin relationships, have a family, generally contribute to your community and society, if only by paying tax. this process should be increasingly likely is you are as pretty, intelligent, witty, self-assured and creative as Enid in 'Ghost World'. but what if you don't? what happens if you bypass or postpone the 'right' decisions? You find yourself out of the loop, outgrown by friends, ignored by family, a lack of social identity resulting in lack of identity full stop. You become a ghost, and 'Ghost World' is a film defined by absence and lack - of people not having what they want, with major decisions taken by others as if they didn't exist; when even your ideal better half is more of a waning shadow. Some of the crucial scenes pivoting on Enid's life occur when she isn't even there. in such a scenario, familiar reality, with its hierarchies and compartments and classification, stops looking familiar and real, becomes a ghost world of grotesques, empty dream landscapes, randomness, spectral impossibilities. But you can disappear from and for everyone except yourself - Enid is afflicted with an infernal self-consciousness.
'Ghost World' is a very funny and smart film, the ultimate teen movie. But because the reassuring resolutions and socialisations of the teen movie are dislocated, it is an incredibly sad, almost tragic film, a kind of downbeat accompaniment to 'Amelie', another heroine as ghostlike manipulator of others' lives, threatened with her own empty solitude.
'Ghost World' is based on a celebrated graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, and this aesthetic is pushed (for the first time on film it seems to me) to powerful emotional effect. As in a comic book, the characters are mostly one-dimensional, often caricatures, the film's look broad and flat - even Enid's front of calm, contemptuous self-assurance. the emotion of the film, as in the classic Hollywood melodrama, is displaced onto the bright, almost day-glo colours; onto the wonderful clothes Enid wears (increasingly red, tactlessly suggesting the border between adolescence and adulthood she is reluctant to cross); onto the locales, especially Enid's and Seymour's rooms, beautiful pop culture attempts to reveal personalities ignored in the real world; onto the rich musical soundtrack, from Hindi rock'n'roll to classic, eerie country and blues; to Zwigoff's creeping, methodical camerawork. For the patient viewer, the pay-off is devastating, in an accumulative, low-key way.
this faith in popular culture (Enid's remarkable illustrated diary; graffiti; porn shops; jumble sales; old corporate logos etc.), the transient, quickly obsolescent, quickly rewritten or surpressed alternative history of America, of our own lives, the ghosts that won't stay buried, forms a merciful release from the current mind-numbing obfuscations of both high and low culture. An Americana masterpiece.
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on April 7, 2003
I read all the five star reviews that have been posted; we should all start a club! I'm 34 and I was completely and unexpectedly devastated by this film, perhaps my favorite coming of age picture since The Graduate. I was floored, watched it twice; i didn't laugh much, although it is certainly a very funny movie in spots. Despite a slightly heightened reality, the tone is just so honest and it's full of touching moments throughout and i had to fight back tears in the last half hour. So rich and right. So many themes about friendships and where society is going and fitting in, loss and trying to be yourself. It's like those rare moments when reading a short story or novel and feeling so at home with the setting and characters, even if it's unpleasant at times. I found the ending very sad and perfect. It is ambiguous, but if you've been paying attention to this movie and relate to what's taking place with the characters and the world around them, you should be shaken and inspired by it. There's nowhere to really go, no place to really escape to unfortunately, if you're a sensitive or "out of step" person in this world; But it's sometimes important that you go out and take a risk, try to find someone who understands. Ultimately all we have is ourselves though and that can be a crushing realization. Seeing this movie twice in twenty-four hours (and I may not ever watch it again) did not make me want to escape the world I inhabit, but to navigate it with some kind of grace and sense of humor. I don't know where to start except with what's in front of me.
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on October 16, 2003
For those that have read Daniel Clowes' graphic novel about the trials and tribulations of Enid and Rebecca in the post highschool graduation world, you could not ask for a better visual interpretation! Terry Zwigoff had proven his fanscination with cartoonists on the fringe with his doco 'Crumb' about Robert Crumb(the often maligned creator of Fritz the Cat amongst others).
This is a great film and all the better being able to watch at home, a perfect DVD for a night in with your intelligent friends. It is always refreshing to have a good selection of special features on a disc including deleted scenes which I'm sure you have your favourite, though tell me any of these scenes would have made the film better, no way!
The casting is brilliant. Thora Birch is 'Enid'up and down, forget all of these character actors like De Niro and Palcino because no actor has ever identified with their character like this. Thora plays 'Enid' as the perfect anti-hero. Steve Buscemi is inspired casting, as his face looks like it came straight out of the pages of the original comic. 'Seymour' is the ultimate loser and Steve walks and talks it well. Scarlett Johansson is great in the support as 'Rebecca',the ying to Enid's yang, perfect together and devastating apart. Each character is never at their best without the other. This film has absolutely no faults to be found with a top notch cast and great directing.This film quickly went into my all time top ten films with the recent 'Donnie Darko', also a beautiful portrayal of the teenage psyche. Do not miss it!
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