Ghost World

Teens channel angst through sarcasm, and there is nothing like graduation from high school to jumpstart angst into high gear. For Enid and Becky, this summer is the summer that will change their lives forever (the same summer as in every teen flick). Luckily, for director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Louise Blue), Ghost World does it in such a strange and warped manner that it is refreshing and devilishly funny. Ghost World is based on Daniel Clowes hit underground comic, and Clowes and Zwigoff faithfully adapt this odd, episodic story to the big screen. Enid (Thora Birch, Dungeons & Dragons, Anywhere But Here) and Becky (Scarlett Johansson, The Horse Whisperer, The Man Who Wasn't There) are outcasts in their high school, acerbic, sarcastic misfits who mock anything and everything around them.

Their only plan is to get an apartment together. They have little concern for anything else. Their largest project seems to be playing a cruel joke on a hapless man, then following him home. It turns out for Enid that this man, Seymour (Steve Buscemi, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, 28 Days) is something of a grown-up version of herself. He is an outcast, has esoteric tastes, and his own little mean streak. They share a love for old, rare music, and begin spending time together. At the same time, Enid and Becky begin drifting apart. Enid wants to stay just as she is, living on the fringes of society. Becky has a steady job, and is moving more into the mainstream.

Enid and Becky live in a nondescript, hellish suburban world that looks as if it may exist in any city in America. At the same time, their city looks horrifying and comforting. There are few 'normal' people who inhabit their world. Everybody is strange, and Enid is one of the few people capable of seeing this. Ghost World is all about mood and tone. There is very little story to grasp onto, just an endless series of observations on stupid people. Everything looks slightly off kilter, but not enough to be alarming. It is the people that are truly strange, and nobody seems to notice except for Enid. Enid copes by mocking everybody in a dry, monotone manner. Enid's jokes are what make Ghost World so funny. Without them, the movie is a strange trip through a young woman's dull summer. Enid and Seymour both share a sharp, caustic wit, and she likes him literally because he does not embody all that she hates.

Birch gives a good performance as Enid. She never seems to stray from her warped outlook on life and the people around her. Her deadpan delivery never strays, and she shows little emotion except for disgust. Buscemi is playing the same weirdo he always does, but he does it well so it works although it is familiar. Zwigoff chooses to focus on the observations rather than on some of the underlying things. Sure Enid is pissed at the world, but why? He never goes beyond the superficial level of people mocking other people. There is only so much some people can take, and the constant level of mean-spiritedness in Ghost World may be too much for some people.

Mongoose Rates It: Not Bad.
1 hour, 41 minutes, Rated R for strong language and some sexual content.

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