Ghost World (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner13/11/2001

Five out of five stars
Running time: 111 mins

Poignant, insightful, wryly humorous portrait of American teenage non-conformity – a wonderful, distinctive film, with a great soundtrack and terrific performances from its three leads. One of the best films of the year.

Terry Zwigoff is the acclaimed director of Crumb, a documentary on underground comic-book artist Robert Crumb. Fittingly, for his first foray into fiction, he has chosen to collaborate closely with another comic book artist and adapt Daniel Clowes’ cult comic book Ghost World for the screen.

The result is one of the best films of the year, and the most insightful film about teen angst to come out of America since Heathers a decade ago.

The film centres on two best friends: Enid (Thora Birch, from American Beauty) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson, also in The Man Who Wasn’t There), who graduate from high school as the movie opens.

They are true non-conformists, professing to hate everything and pouring scorn on their fellow classmates. However, once they leave school, the film explores the consequences of their non-conformity in the ‘real’ world, and their friendship begins to drift apart after Enid meets and befriends Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a green-cardigan-wearing 1920s record-collector.

The performances are wonderful, with neither Birch nor Johansson shying away from showing their characters in a negative light – these are not the loveable heroines you find in other teen movies, but realistic characters who are as selfish and mean as any genuine teenager.

Birch, who gained 20 lbs. for the role, in particular, is superb – she’s turning out to be a real talent to watch and it will be interesting to see what she does next.

Buscemi is excellent, too, investing Seymour with genuine pathos and forging a complex, yet understandable relationship with Enid. There’s also good support from Bob Balaban as Enid’s father and Illeana Douglas as her patronising art teacher.

The look of the film is very distinctive, with bright colours used throughout and obsessive attention to detail in the sets, courtesy of screenwriter Clowes’ continual on-set presence – check out the detail in Seymour and Enid’s bedrooms. Similarly, the soundtrack is gloriously eclectic, mixing Bollywood hits with 1920s jazz recordings.

Ghost World positively brims with quotable dialogue and memorable, frequently moving moments, such as when Enid listens to a recording of ‘Devil is a Woman’ that she bought as an excuse to meet Seymour and finds herself transfixed.

There’s a lot of humour in the film, too, such as Enid’s first excited visit to a porn store, or her attempt to hold down a ‘real job’ in a multiplex.

In short, Ghost World is a wonderful film, with many moments to treasure, including a hilarious out-take that appears after the end credits that it’s worth sticking around for. Frankly, films like this don’t come along very often, so savour it while you can.

Highly recommended.

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Ghost World (15)
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Content updated: 14/12/2017 19:04

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