Ghost World

on July 20, 2001 by Cathy Thompson-Georges
   Although it's based on another source (Daniel Clowes' graphic novel of the same title), "Ghost World" is reminiscent of nothing so much as director Terry Zwigoff's last outing, the documentary "Crumb," crossed with the nightmarish "Welcome to the Dollhouse." Certainly the character played by Steve Buscemi will be instantly familiar to any viewer of Crumb--he bears an uncanny physical and vocal resemblance to R. Crumb here, and shares many of his cultural fixations.

   Zwigoff certainly has an eye for material that meshes with his distinctive sensibility. And a bleak sensibility it is. Enid ("American Beauty's" Thora Birch) and Becky ("The Horse Whisperer's" Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated from high school and look forward to dead-end jobs and a cheap apartment to share. Enid (the "not-pretty" one) is particularly adrift, until she runs into a misfit even more hopeless than herself--record collector Seymour (Buscemi). At first he's an object of mockery, but then Enid decides that Seymour's "so dorky he's kind of cool."

   The whole cast is fantastic: From Birch and Buscemi down to small roles played by Illeana Douglas and Bob Balaban, there isn't a false note. Clowes and Zwigoff show an unerring ear for how young girls really talk and act. "Ghost World" manages to be grim and hilarious at the same time, not unlike love and adolescence and life itself. Misfits of all stripes (and who doesn't secretly feel like one?) will find that this film is spot-on. Starring Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi and Scarlett Johansson. Directed by Terry Zwigoff. Written by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff. Produced by Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich and Russell Smith. An MGM release. Drama. Rated R for strong language and some sexual content. Running time: 106 min

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