Sunday, April 22, 2007

Retro Movie Review: "Ghost World"

There have been comic book superhero movies like Spider-Man and X-Men and there have been serious comic book movies like American Splendor. Ghost World (2001) belongs in that second catergory, as it is a movie not about costumed people, but about a teenaged girl struggling to find her place in the world. The geeky girl, Enid, is played by Thora Birch, of American Beauty fame, and her best friend, Rebecca, is played by a mousy version Scarlett Johansson. These two characters turn a cynical eye towards the world around then, yet after their high school graduation, are forced to grow up in this world.

Rebecca easily adjusts to her new life, but Enid rallies against it, especially after she has to attend a summer school class to officially graduate. Enid finds company with an older man Seymour (Steve Buscemi) who she played a practical joke on. She bonds with Buscemi's socially inept character and, against her nature, develops feeling for him. However, in this world, nothing can be easy, as Enid's pursuit of Seymour alienates Rebecca and initially retards her own growth. Enid is truly a "ghost", floating through the world, not wanting to make any real contact with anyone else. She is stuck between two worlds, and she does not want to enter either one.

Unlike American Splendor which used its comic book roots in the presentation of itself, with weird shots and direction, Ghost World plays out as an "indie" movie. It seems like a typical low budgeted movie that doesn't try to outshine itself and the directing is typical of that sorta movie. The film doesn't broadcast that it is a quirky comic book story, rather, it presents itself as just a quirky story. This is ironic, since Ghost World was a fictional comic book story, while American Splendor was an autobiographical comic book tale by Harvey Pekar.

This film was enjoyable and it was nice to see two beautiful actresses, Birch and Johansson, dress down for a role. Since her star has risen, Johansson's looks have eclipsed any talk of her acting ability. Ghost World, which was made before Scarlett's big arrival, shows that she has some acting chops. Birch though has seemed to faded away a little bit since her role in American Beauty, but hopefully she returns to the big screen soon. Buscemi is the key third role in the film, and he, as always, plays the outcast, weirdo role very well. All three actors lifted the movie from typical fare to something more.

4 Old Time Records out of 5.

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