by Terry Zwigoff Screenplay
by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff Based
upon the comic book by Daniel Clowes Starring
Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, and Steve Buscemi 111
minutes. Rated R. Original aspect ratio: 1.85:1. 2001
It's my own fault, really. I don't write a review for, what, six months?
-- and then, prompted by an e-mail from someone who apparently likes this
site, decide to get on the ball again. But of course the first movie I
see isn't something easy to review, like Moulin Rouge (it's great!)
or Planet of the Apes (it blows!). No. Not for me. No, the first
film I decide to review after not having reviewed jack shit for six months
is the wonderfully complex Ghost World, a film which defies me to
attempt an intelligent analysis after only one viewing.
just don't know what to make of this film. I guess we'll start with what
I know, and hope that provides some sort of segway into that which I am
less sure about. Yeah. That sounds like a plan.
then! Ghost World is based on the comic book by the same name. Often
erroneously called a graphic novel, it was actually the main feature in
an independently published comic book called Eightball, then later
collected into a trade paperback. It was written and drawn by Daniel Clowes,
who co-wrote the screenplay for the film with director
Terry Zwigoff (Crumb). The film version features Thora Birch (American
Beauty) and Scarlett Johansson (The Horse Whisperer) as two
friends dealing with their post-high school existence.
I'm gonna go ahead and say this, and I'm just gonna say it once: I am madly,
in love with Thora Birch. Kooky thoughts enter my head when I see that
rate, the acting from all parties is phenomenal. Thora Birch creates
another dark, misunderstood, rebellious teenager, but only on the surface
does her character in this film in any way resemble the girl she created
in American Beauty. Indeed, if I had to compare Birch's character
in Ghost World -- Enid -- to anyone, it would be Claire Danes' character
Angela in the short-lived television series My So-Called Life. Both
are these angst-filled flawed characters who, by all rights, you should
dislike, but who you can't help falling for anyway. Enid is quite a bit
harder than Angela, though that makes her all the more interesting. Johansson's
character, Rebecca, is harder to like. Rebecca and Enid grew up together,
and they clearly have a lot of love for each other, but they seem to be
veering off in two different directions. And since the film is told from
Enid's perspective, we get a slightly more negative view of Rebecca
than we might otherwise. Johansson does a great job with the role, though,
and creates an interesting contrast between Birch and herself.
featured is Steve Buscemi, who is brilliantly cast as Seymour, a man starts
out as an object of ridicule for the girls to amuse themselves with, but
who swiftly turns into a close friend of Enid's -- straining the already
tense relationship between her and Rebecca. The relationship between Seymour
and Enid is an interesting one. How exactly does she feel about him? How
would one define their relationship? Would one want to even try? Buscemi
was absolutely the perfect choice for this role, and he does a fantastic
job with it, nicely playing off of Enid, who he's both compelled and confused
by. Brad Renfro (Apt Pupil) has a small part as Josh, a friend of
Enid and Rebecca who they both seem to have a crush on.
I also just have to throw this in, and hope that Ms. Mandell is not somehow
reading this -- Illeana Douglas plays Enid's art
teacher, who is a dead ringer for the art teacher I had in high
school. It was quite frightening, actually. I could have closed my eyes
and thought that I was back in zero period art, snickering at her with
Nathan, Joe and Jessie. Just had to throw that in.
really enjoyed the score by David Kitay, who also did the music for such
soaring cinematic accomplishments as Dude, Where's My Car? and Tomcats.
Nevertheless, he does a great job creating music that perfectly accentuates
the characters and the mood of the film -- quirky, and yet sad at the same
time. I'd recommend the soundtrack based solely on the fact that one track
from Kitay is on the CD.
and yet sad seems such a trite way to sum up this brilliantly complex film,
and yet on the other hand, that sums it up pretty nicely. The script is
one of those that effortlessly swings from "absolutely hilarious" to "heartbreaking"
as easily as it goes from scene to scene. I was a little disappointed
that Rebecca seemed to all but vanish from the film about halfway through,
but on the other hand, it was a fairly true-to-life way of telling Enid's
story. It often doesn't matter if you grew up with someone -- sometimes,
people just drift apart, despite every intention to the contrary. That's
by all means not the only thing this film is about. It's also about
(God, this sounds so trite) not doing what's expected of you, maybe not
even doing what's best for you, but doing what you need to
also about leaving your expectations at the door, which is what I suggest
you do when you go to see this film. And I do suggest you go to
see this film, because, despite my inability to write about it in any depth,
it is one of the best films I have seen in some time. I'd smell Oscar if
the Oscars were more about quality storytelling than they are about money.
you never know.
Bottom line: Alternately funny and heartbreaking, this is a brilliant film
that features a wonderfully complex script and likewise wonderfully complex
performances from a fantastic cast.
Walk in with no expectations, but do walk in. You won't be disappointed.