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Ghost World

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Ghost World

Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Rated: R
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genre: Drama

*Also starring: Steve Buscemi, David Cross, Illeana Douglas, Teri Garr, Bob Balaban, Ezra Buzzington, Bruce Glover, Brad Renfro

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

"I'm sick of everybody," angst-filled teen Enid (Thora Birch, AMERICAN BEAUTY) tells her older soul mate Seymour (Steve Buscemi). "Why can't I just do what I want?" Looking her straight in the eye, he shoots back the obvious question in reply, "What do you want?"

The problem with Enid and her joined-at-the-hip-since-childhood friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) is that they don't have a clue as to what they want. The only thing that they're sure of is what they don't want, and that is to be like everyone else. The opening line in GHOST WORLD, a coming of age drama with dark comedic undertones, summarizes the position of the rest of the world, the world that sarcastic teens Enid and Rebecca reject. "High school is like the training wheels for the bicycle of real life," their wheelchair-bound valedictorian lectures the students. Enid and Rebecca couldn't be happier to be rid of high school. They just wish that they could abandon real life.

Although the acting is flawless, the script isn't. Flashes of brilliance are interrupted by sections in which the story wanders aimlessly. These flaws are easily forgiven since the movie is so sharp when it clicks. Still, I have trouble understanding the absolutely rave reviews that many are giving the movie since this is far from a masterpiece. Although I liked it and, indeed, recommend it, it is a candidate for my list of the most overrated films of the year.

The movie is based on Daniel Clowes's comic book story of the same name, and he and director Terry Zwigoff share the screenwriting credits. Buscemi plays a character whom the girls initially torment with an act of random cruelty in order to pass the time. The director's previous film was the documentary CRUMB about controversial comic book writer Robert Crumb. The casting of Buscemi might be considered something of an inside joke given his resemblance to Crumb.

The girls, who try to dress as uncool as possible in combat boots and miniskirts, see Seymour as someone who will be fun to ridicule. His hobby is collecting old 78s. How uncool is that? Then it hits Enid, Seymour is one of them. "He's such a clueless dork," she tells Rebecca. "He's kind of cool."

In my favorite side story, Illeana Douglas plays Roberta, Enid's art teacher. Roberta puts down anything remotely resembling traditional art. Enid's cartoon drawings are quickly ridiculed as not being substantial. Roberta is impressed by another student's wire clothes hanger "art" because of the student's message. These half-dozen, randomly bent hangers represent nothing less than "a woman's right to choose."

GHOST WORLD runs a little long at 1:51. It is rated R for "strong language and some sexual content" and would be acceptable for teenagers.

My son Jeffrey, age 12, who didn't find anything in movie to interest him, gave it just 1/2 of a star. He thought it was boring.

Copyright 2001 Steve Rhodes

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