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Ghost World Review

By Joe Lozito

The Youth is Out There


"Ghost World", based on Daniel Clowes comic novel, has the keen incisive eye of "Rushmore" and "Welcome to the Dollhouse". Like those films, "Ghost World" exists in a place all its own. Its characters, recent high school grads Enid and Rebecca, wander the streets of their sterile suburban town looking for anything that can stimulate their disaffected, seen-it-all attitudes. Whatever.

Anyone who grew up in the suburbs or ever felt out of place will find something to relate to in this film. The script, by Mr. Clowes and Mr. Zwigoff, takes some time to get rolling but it has an uncommon understanding of the minds of young and old alike. This is sort of the dark side of "The Breakfast Club" era films.

Oddly, the adults steal many of the best moments in the film. Illeana Douglas plays one of those art teachers who wants to relate to her class so badly that she cluelessly steamrolls over any chance she has of a connection. Her scenes explaining the difference between an illustration and serious art are both intensely funny and deeply truthful.

The centerpiece of the film is the relationship between Enid and Seymour(Steve Buscemi), the extreme introvert she starts out mocking and ends up adoring. Mr. Buscemi, who hasn't had a role this perfect in years, takes the character he played in his 1996 directorial debut "Trees Lounge" and turns up the neuroses. Mr. Buscemi's success with these roles is that he can play them without ever laughing at them. His complete investment in the character shows through and makes us feel like we not only know Seymour, but that we have a little of Seymour in ourselves. Every one of his scenes rings true and is a joy - though sometimes a painful one - to watch.

Ostensibly the film revolves around Enid, Thora Birch from "American Beauty". Here, even more than in "Beauty", she plays up her awkwardness. At 19, she is attractive, but she feels as though she is still in a cocoon and she's not in any hurry to break free. She's just willing to carry it all around with her. Her Enid looks like Heather Matarazzo's Dawn Wiener from "Dollhouse" 5 years later.

At one low point, Enid explains to Seymour, "I just don't understand what I'm feeling." It's that kind of raw statement that makes "Ghost World" such an accomplishment. We get a film like this maybe once a year - if we're lucky. It is not to be missed.

What did you think?

Movie title Ghost World
Release year 2001
MPAA Rating R
Our rating
Summary "Crumb" director Terry Zwigoff's portrait of aimless, disaffected youth in Anytown, USA hits the nail on the head with frightening frequency.
View all articles by Joe Lozito
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