Directed by Terry Zwigoff.
Written by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff. Based on
the comic book by Clowes.
Starring Thora Birch, Scarlet Johansson and Steve Buscemi.
Release Year: 2000
Review Date: 1/11/02
I am continuing to spend January catching up
on films that I missed from last year that I believe might be in
Oscar contention in two months, and "Ghost World" was near the top
of the list.
For those of you that liked this film,
please shoot me a line and tell me why...because I thought this film
sucked! Not *kind of* sucked, but *fucking* sucked.
I wondered, after leaving the theater, if I
had seen a different version of the film, because I had heard so
many good things about it coming in. Then, I considered my mood
coming in, my level of alertness, etc...and, I think that all of
those things were fine. This movie just did nothing for me.
Briefly, the movie follows the exploits of
high school seniors Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlet
Johansson) as they try to figure out what will happen next in their
lives. For Rebecca, that is easy--she has graduated, so it's get a
job, move out of the parents' house, live her life. For Enid, it is
a trickier question because she actually hasn't graduated yet...she
needs to pass one last art class to be finished, and she has just
met a strange fast-food joint executive/album collector named
Seymour (Steve Buscemi) that she might be in love with.
Even now, hours later, I haven't really
figured out why I didn't enjoy this movie. It wasn't for lack of
effort--I felt like all of the principals were doing
something...Birch as the animated, confused Enid and Johansson as
her foil were fine, and Buscemi does nothing special in his role as
a lovable loser. Maybe, it was because this movie was so boring.
WARNING: PLOT POINTS FOLLOW
Help me out, here. I feel like this movie
might fall into a comedy-drama category, except...I only laughed
three times: twice when the redneck at the 7-11-style store was
flinging around his nunchakus...and, when a large, pregnant woman
smoking a cigarette stumbled though the background of a scene in
front of a retirement building. I was slightly amused by the fact
that the high school's graduation was sponsored by Hostess and
Dunkin' Donuts (you have to look closely at the yellow banner).
Otherwise, all of Enid's wise-ass comments fell flat, and there are
a hundred of them that seemed to be funny...to somebody.
And, in terms of drama, I understand that
Enid was a class-A screwup: she ruins Seymour's life by getting him
fired from his job, and making him show up for a date that never
materializes. But, judging from some of the dramatic music that
accompanies scenes of Enid walking the streets alone at night, or
laying on the bed wondering why her phone never rings, I felt like
the director was trying to make me feel sorry for her, which I
simply did not since she was intentionally fucking things up
throughout the film.
Teri Garr is in this film. Why? She is in
such a throwaway scene that one understands why she goes uncredited...it
doesn't come off as very interesting.
I have not read the comic book on which this
film is based. But, for those that have: why the hell is this film
called "Ghost World"? I am fairly confident that I didn't miss any
ghost-related references, or references about the earth or the moon
or the world in general. I hate it when films use a title that has
no relevance to the movie, so I am hoping that there is some
relevance to the comic.
In terms of the scenes involving the "Coon's
Chicken" sequence, I don't even know where to begin. My main
thought with it is: what's the message that is being sent out
there? If there is no message, why even include it? And, why does
the black girl sitting next to Enid in her art class (credited, I
should add, as "Black girl" in the film's credits; nice touch) only
offer a sneer when faced with a pretty racist piece of 1920's retail
The ending of this film sucked. Flat-out,
it was poor. Why even include that scene where Seymour is in
therapy? I am assuming that the studio (Miramax) would have cut
that scene out, but director Terry Zwigoff insisted on keeping it
in. Bad move...sometimes, the "director's cut" is not a good idea.
I think that Buscemi won a couple of awards
recently for his performance in this film. Why? Buscemi was so
average in this film that all I could think about was good Steve
Buscemi films after leaving the theater. Don't get me wrong--I love
him and he is usually very good in his films. Here in "Ghost
World", his character does not lack for depth or a intriguing
background. But, for me, I feel that he has played lovable loser
one too many times.
Look at him, for chrissakes: this guy LOOKS
LIKE A LOSER!! Those teeth, that hair--I can't think of anyone that
looks more like a loser that Steve Buscemi. So, in terms of acting,
is this a stretch for him? No. Tom Cruise playing a loser? Julia
Roberts playing an outcast? Jim Carrey playing a cold-blooded
killer? *That* would be interesting to see. In fact, Buscemi's
loser in "The Big Lebowski"--a better film all around anyway--is a
more interesting character, and he has far fewer lines. His loser
in "Fargo", his loser in "Desperado", his loser in
"Armageddon"...wait, THAT IS WHAT STEVE BUSCEMI DOES BEST! My
favorite Buscemi film is still "Living in Oblivion" and nothing is
going to change that.
There is no question that I fall into the
minority about my thoughts on "Ghost World", judging from other
critics' reaction so far. But, this film did nothing for me. I
don't need to see it again to know!
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard