Ghost World

Movie Review by Alice Castle

Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas
Director: Terry Zwigoff

Based on the cult cartoon strip by Daniel Clowes GHOST WORLD is the story of two teenage girls living in any town, USA. They’ve just graduated from High School and have decided to opt out of the whole college to proper job treadmill thing. As anyone who has ever been one part of a teenage female duo will know, friendships like these are powerful things. They’re usually made up of one who wears the trousers and another shyer partner, who’s reasonably happy to swap loneliness for a lot of nasty, bitchy ploys and plots.

In this female partnership it’s Enid (Thora Birch – daughter in AMERICAN BEAUTY) who has decided how the pair will view the world. She hates almost everything and everybody – especially anything she considers fake, corporate or conventional – the spiritual Ghostland of modern America. Her friend is the more attractive Becky (Scarlett Johansson – THE HORSE WHISPERER and THE MAN WHO WASN’T THERE) who is slightly more practical in actually getting herself a ‘McJob’ in a local coffee joint so that the two can afford to rent a flat together.

Bored with annoying their only other friend in the world Josh (Brad Renfro) while he tries to avoid being sacked by his erratic boss in a garage shop – the girls decide to play a cruel trick on a man (Steve Buscemi) who has left a small ad in a local newspaper. They call him pretending to be a mystery blonde he “made a connection with” at an airport but didn’t have the confidence to speak to. Inviting him to the saddest diner in town, they watch him from afar being stood up and then leaving disappointed.

Feeling no remorse at their cruelty, Enid and Becky can’t imagine what kind of man would do this sort of thing and decide to stalk him home. They find out he’s called Seymour and he’s a lonely kind of guy, out of touch with the modern world, but in love with his collection of 78s – a wonderful mix of jazz and blues records from the 1920s. Enid is intrigued – maybe he’s not such a loser after all.

GHOST WORLD is not a teen flick in the glossy CLUELESS mode. In fact it made me wince with rather painful traumatic teen memories – something akin to being forced to listen to an album which you loved when you were 15. There are some lovely performances – the most notable perhaps is Teri Garr as the High School art teacher – an eternal hippy in touch with her spirituality, sacred crystals and creative life-force. The soundtrack is great and Steve Buscemi is always entertaining. If you want to know what teenage female friendships are all about GHOST WORLD is probably the closest thing to it.

3 out of 6 stars

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