'Ghost World' film sidesteps
coming-of-age movie clichés
February 5, 2002
By Franklin Harris
There are few things more clichéd than teen coming-of-age movies. They all have basically the same plot, and after a while you think you could write one in your sleep.
Then along comes one that tosses the clichés out the window.
If you missed "Ghost World" during its limited theatrical run, you're in luck. MGM has just released it on DVD.
Enid, the central character of "Ghost World," is a live-action version of MTV's Daria, which isn't a bad thing. She is smarter (but not wiser) than everyone around her, which means she is, in general, lonely and bitter.
And like her cartoon counterpart, Enid (Thora Birch) only has one real friend, Rebecca, played by Scarlett Johansson.
Fresh out of high school and wondering what to do with the rest of their lives, Enid and Rebecca are masters of mindless diversion. On one occasion, they follow around town a man and woman they are convinced are Satanists. Why? Well, why not?
When the Satanists' trail proves boring, Enid and Rebecca kill time by playing a practical joke on a stranger they find in the personal ads.
The stranger turns out to be Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a lonely and depressed man who uses his prized record collection — thousands of vintage 78s — to escape from his life of quiet desperation.
His records are a diversion, keeping him from having to deal with real people, who are bound to disappoint.
Enid is similarly fed up with humanity and, realizing that she and Seymour have that in common, she sets out to find him a girlfriend.
So far, it sounds a bit like one of those typical coming-of-age movies — probably a retelling of a Jane Austin novel. But from here on, writer-director Terry Zwigoff and writer Daniel Clowes avoid the typical plot twists. Their world is a bit messier than Hollywood's. Endings are more tentative. "Ghost World" is the real world, only with fewer people in it.
Birch, coming off the disaster that was "Dungeons & Dragons," once again displays the star power she had in "American Beauty." Her Enid is a perfect blend of deadpan irony and hidden vulnerability.
Buscemi, meanwhile, is perfectly cast as Seymour. It is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role.
"Ghost World" is based on Clowes' graphic novel of the same name, and it is the first non-documentary film for Zwigoff, who is no stranger to comics, having directed the superb "Crumb" (1995), about the life and works of underground cartoonist Robert Crumb.
MGM's DVD ($26.98) includes deleted and alternate scenes, theatrical trailers, a music video and a "Making of 'Ghost World' " documentary.