"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
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