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Synopsis: Terry Zwigoff finally follows up his 1994 breakout success, Crumb, with this look at teenage angst and boredom in suburbia. The screenplay, written by Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes, is based on Clowes's underground comic hit, Ghost World. Best friends Enid and Rebecca have graduated from high school, and now they need to figure out what comes next. Rebecca gets a menial job at a coffee shop and starts looking for an apartment, while Enid wallows in her miserable world view, in which all jobs are sellouts and nearly all people are creeps, geeks, and losers. But when she plays a practical joke on the biggest dud of them all, Seymour, a lonely man who lives only for his collection of classic 78s, her life gets turned upside as she finds herself needing him in ways she never thought possible.
This is a rarity for me. I wanted to love this movie. I mean that. I wanted to sit down, watch the flick and be mesmerized by the performances, the sharp, incisive and slashingly witty comments of Enid (Thora Birch). For the most part, it was empty let down after empty let down.
I have read the comic so I had an idea of what to expect going in but for some reason, in translating these characters to the screen they were less fascinating and more like spite filled outsider girls sitting at the back of a high school cafeteria believing everyone is wrong and that only they have any true realization of what life is all about.
And worse yet...nothing happens or changes within this movie. No one...and I mean NO ONE learns anything, take the characters at the beginning of the film and match them to the end and they are the exact same people. Perhaps that is the point...but then realize if that's a point, someone has dulled it because it is simply pointless. Sure there seems to be development between Enid and Seymour, a man she tricked into a blind date that would never happen so she finds herself drawn to helping him because he is inadvertently cool in her eyes.
There are many nice little moments...but they never go anywhere and it seems like a roughly sketched together idea of a movie. Seymour and Enid develop an unspoken relationship, Enid helps Seymour find a woman, then destroys that relationship when she can't share in it.
As for the actors, they are all bang on in their roles. That's what makes it so hard to come down on this film. I'm not kidding, part of me wants to love this film but it is so slip-shod in so many ways. Scenes running too long and ones that start getting good are cut short. Halfway through it made me think that Zwigoff (the off-beat director who made the fascinating, if not strangely seedy, documentary Crumb) has an aversion to when the scenes become funny, they are too Hollywood and should be glossed over but when they start to border on ennui then they have hit the target.
Steve Buscemi is great, but who's kidding who, when he's in a lousy film the man is still great...oh, and stay to the end of the credits, there is an out take segment of Busecemi going nuts in the variety store which I actually preferred than the reality, but again, that's the Hollywood wish/audience fulfillment side of me speaking.
Thora Birch is Enid. I was never sure if we would see her do anything of interest again after American Beauty (especially after duds like Dungeons and Dragons). I thought, perhaps this is her one moment in the sun but now I have to review that thinking. She may have one weird, long, eclectic career ahead of her and I can't wait to see her next few choices.
Illeana Douglas as Enid's art teacher and Bob Balaban as Enid's father are also brief stand-outs. Illeana Douglas plays the worse sort of art teacher (and the kind I had in high school) who believes that unless it's serious it's not high art. And Bob Balaban, always a great comedy character actor, stumbles out the delivery of one line so well that it was used in the trailer and usually gets a laugh.
Scarlett Johansson, who plays Rebecca, Enid's best friend and confidant has the most brutal part of the film. She is only called upon when conflict is necessary, aside from that, instead of the two being side by side for the flick, she is dumped halfway through and only referred to occassionally. Like Thora Birch, Scarlet (if that is her real name) really owns the role of Rebecca but it is the script that never fulfills. (Look for Scarlet in The Man Who Wasn't There and Eight Legged Freaks...another talent on the rise apparently.
Also kudos go out to Dave Sheridan as Doug who only has two scenes but each one of them bring the film back to life before settling into a frustrating experience again. (See the DVD review below for more on Sheridan's blooper take).
So, it just goes to show you, go into a movie with low-expectations and you can be pleasantly surprised. Hope for the best and you get dashed upon the rocks. For the performances alone, 2 stars out of 5.
Copyright© Written By: Rob Paul
Deleted And Alternate Scenes
Making Of Ghost World Featurette
Gumnaam Music Video "Jaan Pehechaan Ho"
Original Theatrical Trailer
Video: Widescreen 1.85:1 (Anamorphic)
ENGLISH: Dolby Digital 5.1 [CC]
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
The DVD Review:
The opening scene of Ghost World really set a great tone, unfortunately one that was never sustained. One of the ways this was done was by having a relatively unknown Bollywood film Gumnaam (1965) Directed by
Raja Nawathe playing as Enid dances along. The full segment of this music video was included and makes for a great watch...and more than enjoyable...it's damn catchy!
The Making of Ghost World documentary is a bit of a let down although there are some behind the scenes moments worth checking out it is mainly the cast of the film discussing their roles in the film and telling the layout of the story which one can do on their own with the disc so having this is almost redundant.
What this disk really requires is a full audio commentary by the director and writer...if only to give some insight into the full production design of Enid's and Seymour's abodes.
With the deleted scenes there was one stand-out, a blooper take of sorts. Dave Sheridan as Gus takes on Brian George (Babu Bhatt on Seinfeld). Brian George defends himself with a mop while Sheridan hits himself in the face with his num-chuks (which is in the movie but then stops) the num-chuks break and Sheridan seems to improvise a bunch of angry dialogue that even leaves Brian George laughing and walking off camera. Very funny stuff.
The inclusion of the music video was a great idea, and alternate/deleted scenes are always more than welcome by a fan but the lack of commentary keeps this disc rating at a relatively low 2.5 stars out of 5.