Ghost World (2001), Cert 15.

Director - Terry Zwigoff.

Writer - Daniel Clowes.

Starring - Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi & Brad Renfro.


Premise - Misfit teens Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) crave independence but find their options severely limited. Drifting restlessly they pour scorn on all around them, until Enid develops a fascination for oddball, blues record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi).

I just adored this film, it has a great feel about it. A sort of whimsicality that I haven't felt about a film in long time. The film is brimming with dark humour, sarcasm, angst and most crucial of all it feels real. Whilst the events that transpire in the film may be a little 'off the wall' they are presented in such a way as to make them totally believable.

To detail the events that happen in 'Ghost World' would be a crime as the joy of the film is to just sit back and enjoy, blissfully unaware of what will happen. Yes, the film is something of a teen comedy, but it couldn't be further removed from the gross-out likes of 'American Pie' or 'Scary Movie'. 'Ghost World' is smartly written and incredibly well played with not a lame 'fart gag' in sight.

For a start the cast are all excellent. Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson play off each other so well as the firm friends that you will believe that they have actually hung around with each other their whole lives. Their taunts, asides and retorts are delivered with a sharp tongue, perfection and confidence.

Yes, these girls don't run with the main crowd, but they have enough confidence in themselves to be individuals and do and say what they want. Birch has shown that not all child actors end up on the scrap heap and takes her character from 'American Beauty' and gives her a couple of extra dimensions. Johansson definitely seems to be one to watch after this and 'The Man Who Wasn't There'.

Steve Buscemi is just amazing here. He's adept at playing the kooky, eccentric character, but here he twists it just a little to become this sad, pathetic little man. In many ways he is like the two girls, lonely, shunned by society so when a cruel trick forces them together it's little wonder that he and Enid become friends. Buscemi's ability to go crazy is used to great comedy effect as he often goes of into bizarre rants that rate among the funniest moments of the film.

The film isn't afraid to take swipes at the likes of rampant consumerism and political correctness. Perhaps the best example being the overly PC art teacher (played excellently by Illeana Douglas) whom doesn't appreciate art for the way it looks, but rather for what it might (and probably doesn't) represent.

Director Zwigoff brings a bright, bold and colourful look to the film that gives it a distinct comic book feel. Not surprising really since the film is in-fact based on a comic book. I've not read the original source material, but since Daniel Clowes adapted his own comic I would assume that the film doesn't differ to wildly from the comic book.

The score is also very impressive. I was reminded of Lars Teirsens excellent score for 'Amelie' throughout as the score is very slight and whimsical. Blues music also features heavily (since it's Seymour's music of choice) and makes a nice partner to the films events.

If I was to nitpick, I would say that Brad Renfro's character is so peripheral as to be rendered useless. I don't know if he figured more in the comic book, but he could have been easily cut from the film as the few parts he is in bear no relevance to the story. That's if I was nitpicking, which I'm not.

This really is an excellent film and something of a gamble for the film company. It's not an obvious money spinner, but the first film from 'Mr Mudd' (John Malkovich's production company) is a delightful movie that is smart, sophisticated, funny and isn't afraid to challenge the viewer with a nice ambiguous ending that leaves questions unanswered, just the way I like it.


8/10 for Ghost World.

Poster Quote - See it, love it!