Movie Magazine International

Ghost World

USA - 2001

Movie Review By Monica Sullivan

No doubt about it: diehard collectors (of anything!) are odd ducks indeed and I ought to know. Collectors live in a twilight world that makes perfect sense to other collectors, but no sense at all to outsiders. Knowing this, collectors tend to keep a fairly low profile. "Ghost World" examines a die-hard collector named Seymour who collects 70-year-old 78 recordings of rarely-revived blues singers like Skip ("Devil Got My Woman") James. Seymour is portrayed by the great Steve Buscemi, who has yet to receive an Academy Award, but deserves to be nominated for playing Seymour to perfection. We see Seymour through the eyes of Thora Birch as Enid, a recent high school graduate. With the help of her best friend Rebecca {Scarlett Johansson) Enid answers Seymour's Personals ad, basically setting him up to be jilted. Rebecca thinks that Seymour is strictly from Loserville, but Enid thinks he's cool. Their different reactions to Seymour chip away at their tight friendship & they begin to drift apart.

Everything Seymour says & does is fascinating to Enid: his taste in music, his weird room, crammed with memorabilia, the way he snarls at poky pedestrians when he's driving his car, even his abysmal social life. She decides to repair the initial harm she did to him as a result of the Personals ad & she tries, successfully, to find him a date. If the obsessive interest of a teenage girl in a not terribly riveting much older man sounds reminiscent of the Peter Sellers comedy classic "The World Of Henry Orient," it's entirely intentional: you can even see a movie poster for the 1964 film in "Ghost World." But "Ghost World" makes new points of its own to a very different rhythm: Terry Zwigoff's film is not really about the crushing of adolescent illusions as it is about Enid making a new path for herself stripped of any illusions at all. That won't be true for Seymour or for Rebecca, but they're no longer the focus of Enid's persistence of vision.

When Zwigoff sticks with these three characters, the tone of "Ghost World" is strong and clear, but sub-plots involving Illeana Douglas as Roberta the remedial art teacher & Brad Renfro as Josh, the hunky convenience store clerk feel forced and contrived, as if the point of their involvement in the plot was whittled down to next to nothing. Still, it's a funny & refreshing fiction feature debut for documentarian Zwigoff who collaborated with Daniel Clowes on the screenplay, based on Clowes' comic book. In a summer crowded with mediocre sequels & remakes, the unique originality of "Ghost World" is likely to linger in the mind well past 2001.

© 2001 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 8/2/01

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