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GHOST WORLD

SYNOPSIS:
High school graduate Enid (Thora Birch) is a non-conformist who rejects the superficial world she sees around her in L.A. but is a lost soul. With the support of her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), Enid answers a newspaper classified, pretending to be the woman sought by eccentric record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi). Initially planning to humiliate Seymour from a distance, Enid decides to make contact and finds herself unexpectedly attracted to his peculiar ways.


Review by Louise Keller:
I'm not familiar with Daniel Clowes' comic book series, but it doesn't seem to matter; Ghost World is refreshing in its originality and unique approach to life in that in-between neverland between high school and 'real life'. It's a bit like a world that hasn't quite come into focus, a time when we are filled with rebellion, and not sure of who we are: we are searching, prodding in the most unlikely places. Ghost World also takes a glimpse of life on the other side of the hill, when the offbeat and the unusual holds more appeal than the run of the mill sex, drugs and rock 'n roll. Thora Birch makes a wonderful Enid, the bored teen with the snow white complexion, black hair and lips the colour of death, who gets her kicks by being different and poisoning everyone within reach. Scarlett Johansson is a terrific talent and her onscreen relationship with Birch has plenty of depth and feels very honest. Once Rebecca gets a job in the real world, you can sense that the girls' journeys are heading in different directions. The relationship seesaws and we anxiously await the outcome. You will savour every moment of Steve Buscemi's performance: he delights as the geek and loser Seymour. And what an entrance! When we first meet him on screen, we laugh knowingly as we see him through Enid's eyes and recognise the loser that he is - or senses himself to be. Buscemi is perfectly cast with his hangdog expression, mouthful of bad teeth and clothes to match. Even his choice of flatmate defines his loser status. But that's before we get to know him. Lovely performances too by Bob Balaban as Enid's Dad and Illeana Douglas as the hippie art teacher. It may be unusual for a film to centre its heart on the relationship between a teenager who pursues an older, somewhat undesirable man, but this one will captivate you. Buscemi embodies Seymour so completely that he becomes totally sympathetic. We know Enid's intentions long before Seymour can make a guess. We genuinely care for these characters and even hope for a comic book happy ending. It's funny, poignant and tragic; one of the joys is the weird assortment of colourful characters that we meet. Edgy and gloriously entertaining, Ghost World encompasses incongruous and unexpected juxtapositions - indeed a satisfying journey for anyone who delights in people watching.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
Who wouldn't want to watch Steve Buscemi playing an obsessive collector of 78rpm records and Thora Birch as the rebellious teenager attracted to this wonderful weirdo? Ghost World signals its intentions straight away as Enid (Thora Birch) and best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) shamelessly mock a wheelchair-bound student delivering an optimistic speech on high school graduation day. 'I liked her so much better when she was an alcoholic and a drug addict' sniggers Enid. American Beauty star Birch is perfectly cast as the smart cynic who has to explain everything - her ironic use of retro clothing included - to a stupid world that simply doesn't get. That's why it's good she meets Seymour, whose eccentricity and dedication to the arcane is so refined he says he'd 'never want to meet anyone like me'. From a distance Enid would agree but up close there's a growing awareness that maybe she has something in common with him. A wonderful scene at a party attended by Seymour and his record collecting nuts convinces her, and us, that her feelings are well founded. There is something special about this first dramatic feature by director Terry Zwigoff who's best known for his documentary about eccentric cartoonist Robert Crumb. His doesn't simply throw a couple of outcasts together and wish them happiness as they embark on a kooky life together. What it offers is a funny and touching portrait of two people who are frightened by their own existence until they meet and learn that it's OK to be who you are. You wouldn't call this sweet, cute or even (that dreaded term) quirky because there's a melancholia that never deserts Enid and Seymour, even when they seem to be happy. With wonderful contributions from sidekick Scarlett Johansson and Illeana Douglas as a 'right on' art teacher, Ghost World is a rewarding American picture that stays true right to its bittersweet end.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It always amazes me how American writers and filmmakers often tackle the subject of self expression and identity, looking to reassure their fellows that it's OK to be yourself. Usually in mainstream movies this is handled with predictable storylines that reaffirm the okayness of being a dork, a nerd or a simple superhero. Why this amazes me is that Americans simply don't believe it, and continue to try and conform to a sameness in their social patterns that's as unique as a convenience store. What's good about Ghost World, however, is how this myth is re-told, with a determined dose of melancholy that would make an East European proud. (That makes it universal, for a start.) But it's not just that; the writing is sophisticated (in the sense of dealing with complexity) and touches on so many recognisable potholes of contemporary western life that it seems familiar and honest. Thora Birch was born to play Enid, and Scarlett Johansson matches her scene for scene as Rebecca in performances that show no sign of acting. There is a tone of casual despair that sets Ghost World apart from mainstream American films, yet it is always compelling and entertaining. The film unfolds with a sense of humanity and humour, despite its uncertainty about how rosy life actually is - and I love the ending.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

TERRY ZWIGOFF INTERVIEW by Andrew L. Urban

TRAILER

GHOST WORLD (M)
(US)

CAST: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban

PRODUCER: Lianne Halfon, John Malkovich, Russell Smith

DIRECTOR: Terry Zwigoff

SCRIPT: Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff (Based on the comic book by Daniel Clowes)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Affonso Beato

EDITOR: Carole Kravetz-Aykanian, Michael R. Miller ACE

MUSIC: David Kitay

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Edward T. McAvoy

RUNNING TIME: 111 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 27, 2002

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount

VIDEO RELEASE: February 14, 2003







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