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Ghost World (A Movie Review)

Updated: Jul 1, 2020

Ghost World

Ghost World

GHOST WORLD   (2001)

Starring Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Teri Garr, Debra Azar, Brian George, Tom McGowan and David Cross.

Screenplay by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff.

Directed by Terry Zwigoff.

Distributed by United Artists Pictures.   111 minutes.   Rated R.

In recent years, a strange, bullying mentality seems to have taken over Hollywood comedy. Any time they make a film about characters who are eccentric, or different, or “losers,” the characters are mocked unmercifully. You can see this trend in such unfunny films as Joe Dirt, Dumb and DumberDeuce Bigalow Male Gigolo, The Waterboy and many more. In fact, Adam Sandler and Rob Schneider wouldn’t have a career if not for this trend.

That is why it’s such a wonderful, refreshing change that a movie like Ghost World would come out. All of the characters in the film could reasonably be called “nerds,” but instead of teasing them, this film allows us to visit their world and really come to understand what drives these conflicted, lonely, but generally good people.

Not strictly a comedy, Ghost World is still much funnier than any of those movies mentioned earlier. Thora Birch (American Beauty) plays Enid, a terribly jaded teen who is just graduating high school and has no idea what she wants from her life. She doesn’t want to work, she doesn’t want to go to school, she doesn’t want to live with her timid father (Bob Balaban) and her hated stepmother (Teri Garr), and yet she is afraid to move out with her best friend (Scarlett Johanssen). She enjoys drawing but is not interested in trying to share her art with other people. Essentially, she just wants to continue living as if nothing has happened in her life, sit around and chat with her girlfriend and watch people.

When she plays a cruel anonymous gag on a man who placed a personal ad, she becomes fascinated by the older guy and begins an uncomfortable but touching friendship with him. Steve Buscemi gives an Academy Award-caliber performance (although you can usually say that about him when he’s not slumming in action films) as the lonely fortyish record collector who has been disappointed by life so often that he no longer expects that he might not be frustrated.

They each recognize a kindred spirit, and they get closer to each other, though both of their lives are negatively impacted by the friendship… he loses his job, a future girlfriend and his freedom, she alienates her friends and family. Ghost World is one of the most thoughtful and intelligent looks at the friendship of two social outcasts since Midnight Cowboy. (8/01)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2001 All rights reserved.  Posted: August 3, 2001.

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