Ghost World (2001)


I know a lot of these coming of age dramedies about young people learning to move on with their lives is supposed to include bouts of self loathing, but “Ghost World” tends to play it a little too far, most times. Director Terry Zwigoff’s adaptation of the Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel is considered a cult classic, but for the life of me I can’t figure out what. It’s such a cloying, misleading, and obnoxious movie with trite ideas that, despite my repeated tries I can never get around to remotely enjoying this.

It’s probably because “Ghost World” is centered on some of the most obnoxious and grating characters ever written. Particularly protagonist Enid who is just a storm of selfishness, idiocy, and pomposity that makes it impossible to empathize with her. Even when she somewhat redeems herself, she’s still impossible to root for. Thora Birch plays Enid, the social misfit who just graduated from high school with her best friend Rebecca, as played by Scarlett Johannson. When Enid is forced to take a remedial art class for summer school, she begins to realize that her personal life is changing, and the world she thinks she belongs in: the art world, is nothing she thought it’d be.

Worse, she may not have anything meaningful to contribute to either. Thora Birch is always a charming actress, it’s just sad Enid is so unlikable and obnoxious. She revels in walking around and mocking people and can never seem to figure out why half the people in her life either don’t like her or just tolerate her. The ultimate realization to this fact offers no real insight to this character, as she spends much of the story alienating others and is left without much of anyone by her side. A lot of the narrative plays as a quirky comedy based around odd characters and eccentric locals, but it’s very much a tragic and sickly sweet drama that can never really find a character in the bunch worth rooting for, or even empathizing for.

It’s a wonder anyone in this town even talks to Enid, as she spends so much of her waking hours mocking, deriding, and pushing away anyone that can stand her for more than a few minutes. Even her own father finds it tough to really connect with her even at her most vulnerable. And it is no real twist when she finds a common bond with local Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a record collector who approaches life the same way Enid does, and then moans about being alone. “Ghost World” has some grade A talent behind it, but it lacks any of the heart or emotion of the coming of age brand the film aspires toward, thus it’s a forgettable effort.