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October 21, 2009

Film Fatale: Ghost World

a2Ghost World was written and illustrated by Daniel Clowes and published by Fantagraphics Books in 1997. Set in the 90’s in an unnamed town, the story follows the lives and happenings of two teenage girls post high school. Enid Coleslaw and Rebecca Doppelmeyer and two pseudo-intellectual angst ridden teens who go around criticizing popular culture and the people who live in their town. The girls are partly expressions of Clowes’ own life and opinions which he has stated himself; Enid Coleslaw is even an anagram for Daniel Clowes. This comic has received tons of critical praise, with Time Magazine even naming it “The most readable comic of the year” in their “Best of 2000.” The movie (which was loosely based on the comic) received numerous praise as well. Many might think it’s the best thing to ever happen to teen angst but some don’t, and I’m one of them. And hey, isn’t it in the minority spirit of the film to have opinions that go against the majority? It was directed by Terry Zwigoff, whose only other directing credit that I recognized was Bad Santa, and anyone who saw it knows how fitting the title was for that shittier than shitty movie.

a1The story follows Enid (Thora Birch) and Becky (Scarlett Johansson) post high school as they find ways to have fun and pull pranks to kill their boredom. Their main conquest takes the form of nerdy comic book collector… ahem… excuse me… nerdy, vinyl record collector Seymour (Steve Buscemi) whom they pull a major prank on, and whom Enid developes an obsession with. Teen angst ensues, as well as a lot of bitchiness and cruel teenage girl moves. In the beginning of the film we see Enid and Becky’s graduation. There is a scene with a girl in a wheelchair and a huge neck brace who after being in a car accident stops her alcoholic/crackhead ways and becomes a golden girl. In her speech she proclaims “I have learned that to overcome life’s obstacles you need faith, hope and above all, a sense of humor.” The scene is ironic and hilarious and I expected more of the same from the rest of the movie. What I got were sporadic moments of witty humor filled with cruel, cheap teen melodrama. In a way it reminded me of Clerks with its cooler than thou eliteness and dry sarcastic critiques, only Clerks was actually witty and a good movie, whereas Ghost World just comes off as whiny. Some of the girls’ behaviour reminds me of my own at that age, even some of cruel stuff, I regret to say. I think I would have liked this movie a whole lot more if I had watched it back then. If anyone has seen Mean Girls or attended high school they know what bitches teenage girls can be. The thing is, where Mean Girls magnified their behavior and made fun of it, Ghost World’s Enid just seemed plain mean.

– BEGIN SPOILERS –

a3On a silly side note, have you ever found someone to be ugly, or weird, or just not attractive but then you find out they like you or you have a dream about them and all of a sudden you think they’re hot? Well my embarassing closet crush is Steve Buscemi. I had a dream about him once and he went from being a weirdo to endearing. I think I would have liked this movie even less if he hadn’t been in it and at the same time would have liked it more, because it pissed me off how rude Enid was to the guy. She gets him to break up with his girlfriend and then immediately loses interest in him romantically (which again, regretfully I have done) and he totally forgave her (which the guy in question did as well)! When Steve Buscemi says “She could at least have the decency to call me back,” I felt SO bad for him. In her drawing book she has a picture of him followed by a picture of Josh surrounded by hearts. He feels like shit upon seeing it, then she shows him how many more pictures there are of him than Josh, as if that makes up for it, and he buys it. What about the heart filled page! Young girls are fickle and not to be trusted. All that scene did was piss me off.

– END SPOILERS –

I believe an analogy for this movie exists within the film itself. Enid is forced to take a stupid summer art class or she won’t graduate high school. The eccentric art teacher is played by the amazing Illeana Douglas whose performance is lovable and ridiculous. At a sort of show and tell during the class, Enid’s sketches are looked at by the teacher who says “I think that Phillip and Enid can help us to see that there are many different ways we can express ourselves. We can do things like these cartoons that are amusing as a sort of light entertainment or we can do work that is more serious in scope, and feeling, and that deals with issues- emotional, spiritual, political… of great importance.” When another girl’s drawing (which consists of a bunch of scribbles) is examined by the teacher the girl says (who is clearly just trying to get an A) “It’s my response to the issue of a woman’s right to choose. It’s something I feel super strongly about.” The teacher then proclaims “Isn’t this a wonderful piece class? This definitely falls into that higher category of art I was speaking of earlier.” That’s how this movie feels to me; it puts together a bunch of stuff and strives to call it avant-garde and almost succeeds at times, then ruins it with moments like these – “You know it’s not like I’m some modern punk, dickhead. It’s obviously a 1977 original punk rock look.” No, what’s obvious is that this movie tries way too hard to be cool, which isn’t cool at all…

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The Movie Lady
themovielady@comicattack.net

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5 Comments


  1. billy

    I think Steve Buscemi is great at playing creepy or weird parts. I dont think he’s the leading man type but boy is he good at making people feel creeped out!



  2. Can you please expand on said dream?


  3. billy

    @Andy-well it starts out with me, the swedish bikini team, some baby oil and the game twister…



  4. I remember watching this movie when I was really young and not understanding a damn bit of it. Then a I watched it last year and I love it. I read the comic not to long ago. Cool stuff.


  5. Princess Powerful

    Yea it’s kind of a weird movie. I actually liked it. It’s a very sad movie due to the characters sad traits and faults. Still likable…When that lead character girl said she was trying to pull of 1977 punk rock, she showed me how much of a jerk she was. That’s the impression I got when she said that line. I dunno if she’s like that in the book, but the movie seems to drive it home that she’s not as great as she strives to be and unfortunately ends up portraying a cynical a loser.



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