Adaptation · Black Comedy · Comedy · Criterion Collection · Romance · United States

#872 Ghost World (2001)


#872 Ghost World

2001 // USA // Terry Zwigoff

Criterion Collection (LINK)

1% Relatable

Terry Zwigoff’s Ghost World, his first feature-film debut after making two fascinating documentaries Louie Bluie and Crumb, is first and foremost featuring no ghost. Loosely adapted from a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Zwigoff, the film finds its voice through two freshly high-school graduated geeky teens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), and mainly how Enid interacts with the alienated, incomprehensible world dominated by 99% of humanity that she can’t relate.

The squeaky nihilism and sarcasm are fully embodied in Enid, from her out-of-fashion punk look and her green-dyed hair, to her embarrassingly blunt and straight-to-the-point communication skills, she’s definitely the exemplary of weirdo one might find in every high school that all seems too familiar with. The existential crisis for such a social outcast is all, let me borrow a quote from the film itself, “so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again.” The caricature of the cartoonist characters are nonetheless more intriguing than realistic, in spite of the fact that Ghost World never intends to be naturalistic.

Still one could easily project their self-image, past or present, onto the characters, or simply resonates with their behaviour. The self-loathing, middle-aged nerdy music record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi, in my opinion his best performance ever) perhaps rings more relatable than everyone else. He’s the unaware victim of ad-prank induced by Enid and Rebecca at the very beginning of the film. The despicable nerd turns out to be the kindred spirits with Enid who exerts all her efforts to help Seymour finding a girlfriend, and when he does find one, there’s apparently jealousy wedging in.

The narrative thrust comes in the form of challenge on the relationships. Rebecca, Enid’s best friend since childhood, has been working all along to get money and rent a shared apartment with Enid, but the increasing eccentricity of Enid and her attention on Seymour effectively undermine their friendship. On the other hand, Enid scorns her father (Bob Balaban) for finding a stepmother that she dislikes while she, unromantically, is bonded with the much older Seymour. There’s also a subplot of Enid’s summer art school, taught by the equally artistically weird teacher Roberta (Illeana Douglas) whose support on Enid’s exhibition of a chicken-restaurant discontinue racist logo would end unfulfilled.

The retro ambiance, including the music like the 1960s Indian rock’n’roll, the 1950s retro dinner, are a perfect match to the film’s ennui without ever being tedious. Ghost World ends in open-interpretation with an enigmatic future ahead of Enid, literally she boards a bus that going to an unknown destination, going both to nowhere and everywhere, this is perhaps the aptest allegory of adolescence I ever seen.

Film Rating: 3/5

One thought on “#872 Ghost World (2001)

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