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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 24.39%
Average: 2.44%
Pretty Bad: 4.88%
Total Crap: 4.88%

10 reviews, 104 user ratings

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Ghost World
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by Collin Souter

"One of the most realistic movies of the year is based on a comic book!?!"
5 stars

“Ghost World” tells the story of three kinds of outsiders: 1) The compulsive outsider, (2) the guy who can’t belong to a club that would have someone like him for a member, and (3) the outsider who can’t help but cross the line to normalcy. The conclusion these three characters come to at the end might surprise you, but you will most likely find yourself relating to all three of their situations.

Like Enid (Thora Birch), I, too, am a packrat. I can’t throw away anything. Like Seymour (Steve Buscemi), I am a proud collector of music memorabilia (but only U2 items). And like Rebecca (Scarlett Johanssen), I can’t help but feel the pull of practical adult responsibility. Reality bites, and “Ghost World” rings so true to life, it makes you long for the days of high school when being an outsider with a best friend was actually kinda fun.

The movie starts at a high school graduation where we meet Enid and Rebecca, two life-long friends who have their own private jokes, equal disdain for anything having to do with an establishment and who have no interest in going to college for the sake of a boring office job. They want to get an apartment together, follow around strange townsfolk and occasionally bother their friend who works at a convenient store. Enid has a razor-sharp acid-tongued wit that makes Jeannine Garafalo sound like Martha Stewart. Johanssen’s Rebecca seems just along for the ride, but that will explain itself later.

One day, they come across an ad in the personals from a guy wanting to get in touch with a woman he once glanced at in an airport. The girls decide they MUST call the poor shlub and pretend to be the girl. They call and arrange a meeting at a 50’s diner that plays modern-day R&B hip-hop. They drag along their friend, Josh (Brad Renfro), from the convenient store who couldn’t care less. In walks Seymour (Buscemi, who gives his best performance since “Living In Oblivion”), a needy-looking skinny guy who orders a milkshake and waits…and waits and waits and waits. Meanwhile, Enid and her friends look on.

Eventually, Enid and Rebecca feel sorry for the guy. They decide to follow him to his house where he and his roommate sell records and collectibles on their front lawn. The horn-rimmed black-haired Enid buys an old 78 blues record called “The Devil Took My Woman” and finds herself playing it constantly. Intrigued, she and Rebecca go to a party thrown by Seymour where older, lonely male outsiders go to talk antiques and buy-and-sell vinyl rarities (think the “High Fidelity” crowd, 20 years later). Enid takes a liking to Seymour’s collector mentality and looks up to him for it. Their relationship develops and she vows to find him a woman to be with, because she can’t bare the thought of a world where a nice guy like Seymour can’t find a significant other.

Meanwhile, Enid’s friendship with Rebecca starts to head south as Rebecca holds a steady daytime job at a Starbucks-like coffee shop instead of running around with Enid all day talking to strangers. Enid promises to get a job “tomorrow,” but seems reluctant to hold a job for more than a day. The apartment hunting goes nowhere, Enid’s father brings back an old “monstrous” girlfriend to live in the house and Seymour eventually finds a woman. Reality bites, alright.

“Ghost World” finds many aching truths to meditate on regarding life after high school and while doing so, it presents a hilarious and vivid microcosm of America within this small suburban town. A shirtless guy with noticeable tan-lines and a mullet buys a ton of Slim-Jims with the bravado of a rock star. A man sits waiting all day at a bus stop where a bus line has been cancelled for years. A well-meaning, but pretentious, Laurie Anderson look-alike high school art teacher (played by the great Illeana Douglas) regards a pile of wire hangers as a representation of fertility. And a young couple cannot last as a couple unless they can agree on the music they like (which is important!). Enid and Rebecca want to stand outside everything and look in, but they do it with curiosity while trying desperately to find their way through it. Through this microcosm, “Ghost World” has some of the biggest laughs all year without always resorting to cynicism.

Terry Zwigoff directed and co-wrote “Ghost World” with Daniel Clowes who created the original graphic novel (or comic book. I myself don’t know the difference). Zwigoff also directed “Crumb,” the wonderfully creepy and beautiful documentary about cartoonist/artist Robert Crumb. Zwigoff clearly has a knack for telling stories of artists who don’t fit in. One of the sub-plots deals with Enid taking a summer art class in order to receive her high school diploma. There, she learns she can’t express herself without receiving unwarranted criticism. Enid and Crumb have one thing in common that shines through: Life looks better and more truthful as a painting or a cartoon. This makes me very curious to read the original source material.

Thora Birch has grown up a bit since “American Beauty.” I loved her presence in this film for many reasons. First, she looks like a real person, not a movie person. Her roundish, awkward physique adds to the authenticity of her character without making it an issue. I also liked how she repeatedly wore the same shirt on different days (the symbolic “Raptor” shirt), an idiosyncrasy we don’t see too much of in movies. She goes through most of the movie with looks of indifference, disdain and, sometimes, sadness that when she actually smiles, it’s almost shocking.

I didn’t find Rebecca quite as interesting, but I’m not sure I’m meant to. Like Enid, as soon as Seymour walks into the picture, we want to know more about him even if it means sacrificing another character. Whenever Rebecca does come back into the story, we can feel the strain of their friendship, moments in real life I’m sure we’ve all had.

“Ghost World,” I’m sure, will touch many people. We’ve all gone through personality phases and we’ve all had the fantasy that living with your best friend would be a dream come true. Rarely does a movie cover so much truthful ground. Most movies these days take pages from the book of Hollywood truths where everything works out in the end. I’m sure you can find over a dozen movies in theaters right now that reek of false sentiment. Amidst all the fakery, “Ghost World” sits like a pair of jeans on the sidewalk, just waiting to be discovered.

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originally posted: 08/13/01 14:49:33
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User Comments

1/20/14 Dane Youssef A really worthwhile film. It scores successfully in every aspect. It's extremely important. 5 stars
11/19/11 netra smith the movie is saying something about not giving into conformity in society 4 stars
7/04/09 hammerin hank Only an idiot would find this movie idiotic. Only a bore would find it boring. 5 stars
6/09/08 Jack Honest, real, hilarious and heartbreaking. BudLite-swilling Blueshammer fans won't get it. 5 stars
4/24/08 beau HAHA "oh my god he just ordered a giant glass of milk"...."uh thats a vanilla milkshake.." 4 stars
2/25/08 SamanthaP i thought this movie was so true to life, thora birch was great! 5 stars
2/12/08 mb Idiotic. Demeaning. Lacking in life. Left after 40 min. 1 stars
11/27/06 mili this movie amazed me, it just touched me in a certain way no movie had before. 5 stars
6/13/06 Hana all time fave, brilliant film! 5 stars
1/26/06 aimless One of the few films that gets better each time you watch it 5 stars
9/09/05 matt great film 5 stars
8/19/05 ES Wow, depressing and boring= this is the new rage hmmm 1 stars
8/05/05 Nate Frary I absolutely adore this movie. 5 stars
6/29/05 Queen Tantrum Absolutely AMAZING! 5 stars
6/10/05 Charlie Pointless, but quite entertaining! 4 stars
6/07/05 Alex St. John If you enjoy dark comedies this movie is definitely for you! 5 stars
4/01/05 failingloser i <3 it 5 stars
3/22/05 Candy I just really love this movie! Its cool and awsome! I love you steve! You have cool movies. 5 stars
9/09/04 Conor Crockford great 5 stars
7/06/04 James Kustes Watch Crumb and American Splendor as well 4 stars
6/26/04 Cynthia Hanna Impressive depiction of reality! 4 stars
5/21/04 Elena this movie is hilarious; not trying to be 'goth' or hip or clever's just natural. 5 stars
4/16/04 A Reader "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" is reason enough to see it. Birch, Johansson, and Buscemi all shine. 5 stars
4/13/04 Jack Sommersby Not half as clever or hip as it purports to be. 2 stars
3/15/04 ToMaSsS! it was alrite 3 stars
2/29/04 jimmy two times great film 5 stars
1/24/04 Eraserhead I personally think this film sucks 1 stars
1/04/04 Ashley Definately my favorite movie! 5 stars
11/23/03 smartmusician Loved the movie 5 stars
9/27/03 Leah Heagy I loved it!!!!! 5 stars
5/23/03 Ryan F. These pseudo goth, antisocial "I just need to find myself" films grate my nerves big time. 2 stars
5/20/03 Britishlover I can totally connect with this film. Buscemi was excellent. 5 stars
5/16/03 Piz depressingly funny and an acting gem. Nice surprise 4 stars
4/11/03 Jack Bourbon One of the few movies I've seen to accurately portray what having friends is really like. 5 stars
4/07/03 Jack Sommersby Overpraised and underwhelming. Thin material not spruced up by attempts at eccentricity. 2 stars
4/01/03 Christopher Boatman What a teen movie should be. 5 stars
3/17/03 Jon "Thumb the Toad" lyrik Funny, dramatic, perfectly acted/casted, brilliantly scripted, my kind of movie. 5 stars
1/26/03 Lord David one of my ultra-faves - totally funny & sad 5 stars
12/22/02 Pigwidgeon Achingly true. The Birch-Buscemi duet tore my heart out and stomped that sucker dead. 5 stars
12/15/02 Kyle One of the best movies I've seen... deserved a wider release. 5 stars
11/16/02 Mike was Here Thoughtful, touching, and ultimately very very sad, despite the optimistic ending. A+ 5 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Thora Birch shoulda been nominated for the Oscar!! 5 stars
11/15/02 JackG One of last years best movies. It's not Hollywood, so therfor it's great. 5 stars
11/06/02 JesseL Thora Birch cannot act. This movie is a dork movie for dork people. 1 stars
10/26/02 Morally Sound Interesting and rebeliously funny movie. 4 stars
8/22/02 MaIniYaK BEST MOVIE 5 stars
8/02/02 chet like all independent films, boring and interesting simultaneously 4 stars
7/31/02 oska was expecting an 'independent' american movie, instead th usual formulaic rubbish 2 stars
7/26/02 Turtle Pretty boring and rarely funny...but it has its moments. 3 stars
7/15/02 Chuck Bittersweet, touching, sad and funny. Wow, what a film! 5 stars
7/11/02 Kristen hilarious 3 stars
7/10/02 willy.gk an affectionate, haunting film. will linger in your head for days 5 stars
5/13/02 Amy Takes a shot and misses 3 stars
5/11/02 Keith good in a "getting-in-touch-with-my-inner-troubled-teen-girl" sort of way 4 stars
4/29/02 Malcolm Masiero If you think this movie sucks, then you just don't understand 5 stars
4/21/02 Akira_773 Very good, despite falling into the same trap all movies like this do 4 stars
4/04/02 lauren mccreight trys to be cynical.....comes off whinny. 2 stars
4/02/02 Monday Morning A waste of time 2 stars
3/31/02 Reini Urban Very cute 4 stars
3/21/02 Mike Perfect for post-high school teens. Thoughtful, realistic, and complicated. No easy answers 5 stars
3/02/02 Butterbean I could relate to Enid to a point. Buscemi was great. Overall, a nice "artsy" movie. 4 stars
2/18/02 Kyle Brilliant. Not at all what I expected- definitely NOT another teen movie. 5 stars
2/17/02 Andrew Carden Well-Done Black Comedy. Some Imagintive Lines and Great Performances. 5 stars
2/17/02 John Lyons What a waste of time! The whole movie was pointless. 1 stars
2/11/02 Michael Grimm slow, little character development, total letdown 2 stars
2/11/02 Spyguy2 Wow, what a gem! I went out and bought it on dvd the next day. Brilliant! 5 stars
2/11/02 Joe This movie really tried my patience. I kept waiting for something significant to happen. 1 stars
2/09/02 A.K. Funny and touching. For once, a real movie about teenagers 5 stars
2/05/02 Nonnon Fabulous. 5 stars
1/19/02 Rego Allegro Great movie - American Independant Cinema at its best and an amazing Steve Buscemi 5 stars
1/15/02 Carly There's material here to make a 5 star movie, but Enid just pissed me off so much. 1 stars
12/30/01 Nicole Enid's my hero... and Seymour's the man I long to meet... 5 stars
12/28/01 Albert Yu Looking for Alex Hirsch!!! EIMer@ Alex I am trying to track your ass down!! email me 5 stars
11/26/01 Tam Excellent characterisation & a witty script. The ending avoided cliche. 5 stars
10/22/01 puckfreak Totally overrated if that's possible...maybe because I'm not a teenage girl? 2 stars
10/11/01 masin wolliams in the last 32 years I've seen close to 100k movies, this is in my top 5. I was blown away. 5 stars
9/29/01 Ben VanDuyvendyk A better transition than could've been hoped for, great movie if you like satirical wit, 5 stars
9/27/01 amir pakdel it was amazing to me 4 stars
9/26/01 Maple Syrup It somehow uses it's sardonic wit and cynical world view to make you feel all gooey inside. 5 stars
9/18/01 Thor-Leo Not the usual Hollywood fare but not the masterpiece that some say it is 4 stars
9/16/01 Alex Hirsch SEE THIS MOVIE 5 stars
9/16/01 Jerry R. Colvin My favorite movie of 2001 5 stars
9/14/01 chloe perfection 5 stars
9/13/01 Lachlan L. A fantastically put together collection of social satire/commentary. Beautiful, sad, insane 5 stars
9/10/01 Professor Matrix I can relate. Low art and high weirdness. Instead of the bus, I hitch hiked. 5 stars
9/09/01 Wilbot Characterization very good. Birch & Buscemi excellent. Rather sad. Ridiculous ending. 4 stars
9/04/01 daniel scarlett johannson is beautiful....check out the ghost world website, it's really well done 5 stars
9/04/01 Chris Harris I think it appeals to a minority. If you happen to be in that minorty it speaks volumes. 5 stars
9/01/01 JB Great movie. Everthing is nice. It really flows. Buscemi! 5 stars
9/01/01 The D bittersweet 5 stars
8/31/01 Patrick David Barber heartbreakingly beautiful. see it a lot 5 stars
8/28/01 C. MOORE Mise en scene ooks like Clowes's illustrations. 5 stars
8/28/01 edmurder i was the target audience for this movie. 5 stars
8/27/01 Elizabeth super-sarcastic and funny, yet touching 5 stars
8/26/01 hankmekon brilliant insight with an overcast of alienation 5 stars
8/25/01 frank best movie of the summer 5 stars
8/21/01 B Horner A teenage film that was not made just for teenagers. Perfectly cast; go see it! 5 stars
8/14/01 Ryan Jones Bad. Just really really bad. 1 stars
8/06/01 Raiven Very funny, insightful, sexy and emotionally affecting. I totally loved it, and Thora! 5 stars
8/03/01 Kimble superkewl 5 stars
7/27/01 cody a hilarious comedy 5 stars
7/27/01 Heather An offbeat movie full of oddballs, misfits, teen angst, lack of identity etc., good acting 4 stars
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  03-Aug-2001 (R)



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