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GHOST WORLD, 2001
Movie Reviews!

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GHOST WORLD,  MOVIE POSTERGHOST WORLD, 2001
Movie Reviews

Directed By Terry Zwigoff

Starring Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Stacey Travis
Review by Christopher Upton


SYNOPSIS:

Enid and Rebecca leave their high-school graduation with dreams of living out the fantasy of getting a house together. However, while Rebecca wants to move on and grow up, Enid has no such desires and the two grow apart while Enid grows closer to self confessed nerd Seymour.

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REVIEW:

Graphic novels donít really have the best reputation. They arenít treated with the same reverence as books and are seen by most as comic extensions or superhero stories. But there are stories out there in graphic novels that are far more interesting than a lot of adapted books, and they often work better because of the cinematic style of drawings in the first place. Daniel Clowesí Ghost World is an adapted graphic novel, in which he placed himself into the mindset of a teenage girl. In doing so he managed to capture the angst and confusion of not knowing what to do with your life perfectly.

Enid (Birch) is a typical outsider, she doesnít fit in at school and she seems content with the fact. Resigned to being un-cool she spends her time making sarcastic quips and snide asides with her friend Rebecca (Johansson), a girl who could be much more popular if she wanted. The two of them have harboured dreams of living together since they were little girls and now, with graduation behind them, they have the chance to make dreams into reality. Like with all fantasies thought up in our youth, the long-term ramifications arenít considered and Enid canít leave behind the outsider lifestyle as Rebecca quickly assimilates into the working world.

This is what is at the core of Ghost World, the desire to not want to fit with societal norms. Enid was an outsider at school and the difficulty in breaking out of this destroys her relationships with her family, friends and employers; in her mind she is still just a child. Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes take Enidís selfishness and manage to make her quite sympathetic, helped in no small part by Birchís brilliant performance exposing the desperation behind the sarcasm. The feeling of not wanting to be part of the working world is universal and Enidís rejection of it is something that most people have dreamed of since they entered work. Her response to this is to find herself someone akin to her and whom she can relate to.

Seymour is the ideal man for Enid in her masochistic search for belonging. He is a loner like her, obsessed with pop culture and repelled by everything considered Ďfuní- this includes hanging around with other people and generally going outside. They meet because of a prank that Enid and Rebecca pull, replying to a personal ad and dragging Seymour to a diner to embarrass him. When they find out more about him and his loathing for the populous at large Enid finds herself drawn to him and they spend more and more time together.

A lot of the humour in this film comes from Enid paradoxically forcing Seymour to do the things she herself hates. They go to a bar together to see Seymourís favourite thing live, traditional blues, only to be bombarded with the bombastic guitar of Blueshammer, the brash personification of everything they both hate. Steve Buscemi does a great job of capturing the character of Seymour, it isnít that he wants to not be involved with others, he just feels like he can relate to them.

Seymour is world-weary and unlike Enidís the reasons for his pessimism stem from the fact he has had the fight ground out of him by years of office work and unsuccessful dates. The relationship between the two is more a co-dependency as they try to cope with the fact that neither of them can relate to the world outside. When Enid tries to get a date for Seymour it is because as she says ĎI canít stand to think of a world where a guy like you canít get a date,í because if he canít thereís the danger she canít.

Her selfishness returns quickly to damage their friendship when Seymour manages to find someone that actually likes him, coincidentally a woman responding to the initial ad that drew Enid and Seymour together. She feels once again rejected and tries to sabotage the relationship, having effectively destroyed her relationships with others. Throughout the film there is always the problem for Enid that she has absolutely no idea what she wants to do. The character of Norman, an old man sat at a disused bus stop waiting for a bus, is the antithesis of Enid.

Norman is single minded of purpose and knows exactly what he wants, confident that his bus will eventually come and he can escape. Once all her relationships have been destroyed and she has nothing left Enid, left disheartened by everything around her, follows the same route to Norman.

The great thing about Ghost World is it manages to capture the existential angst that people try to leave behind as they grow up, and exposes the fact that this fear never leaves and we are always looking for that elusive belonging which can bring us happiness. It also helps that this film is deliciously barbed and the sarcastic shots, which occur repeatedly throughout the film, are brilliant, quick and acutely observed. Enid might never actually find what she needs but thatís because there is no such perfection, something the graphic novel observes brilliantly and what has transferred to the film is a great representation of the book.

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