Review by Michael Jacobson
Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 111 Minutes
Release Date: June 5, 2017
think only losers have good relationships.”
a teenage comedy comes along that gets its laughs intelligently, with no punches
pulled yet no cheap shots, it’s such a breath of fresh air that it makes me
feel like I haven’t breathed in forever.
Ever since Rushmore, I’ve been waiting patiently for the next
movie that would pick up its torch and run with it. It took a few years, but I got my reward for waiting…one of
the best films of the new millennium, Ghost World.
Rushmore, Ghost World has such faith in its characters that anything is
possible. Thora Birch, who plays
Enid, delivers one of the year’s most complete and striking performances,
proving her good turn in American Beauty was no fluke.
and her best friend Becky (Johansson) are freshly out of high school…what
happens next? Neither wants
college, so that would seem to suggest getting jobs and moving out.
It’s an interesting step, because both girls have viewed the so-called
“real” world with more than a share of cynicism over the years.
Enid in particular seems less than happy about the prospect of joining it
the kind of person who knows what she doesn’t like very clearly, but
what she does like, she hasn’t discovered yet. She lives her whole life as a rebellion against
who-knows-what…perhaps normalcy would be the best word.
You can almost feel her bristle every time her friend uses the word
with a summer school art class to complete her graduation, Enid focuses less on
her talent (which she does have) and more on her own amusement…she and Becky
decide to answer a guy’s very open personal ad just to have a little fun.
The ad’s placer, Seymour (Buscemi, in one of his most subdued and best
performances) is everything they imagined…an odd loner.
as Enid gets to know him, she starts to feel a kinship with him.
Here’s a guy who followed his own drummer for some 40 years, and is a
complete individual. He’s lonely and unhappy, and so is she…the only
difference is he realizes it, and she doesn’t.
They strike up an odd friendship over his vintage record collection and
old-time paraphernalia. She decides
that maybe she can find a girl for him.
don’t want to go too far into story details, because the film takes whimsical
and delightful turns along the way. The
script is rich in irony, wit, and acute observations about the naked human
condition. I love how Enid, for
example, plainly tells her father at one point, “I’m not even listening to
you, and you don’t even notice.” His
next statement proves the point.
the end, of course, there are no resolutions.
Enid and Becky are at a new chapter in their lives, and it is one that
doesn’t usually end quickly or with finality.
They start the long painful process of growing apart over the course of
the film…something that happens to a lot of childhood friends over time.
What will become of them? The
movie doesn’t pretend to know all the answers.
in the meantime, their observations are right on the money, and dead-on funny.
My favorite? Their review of
the music played at their graduation. “It’s
so bad, it’s almost good,” Becky says.
“It’s so bad, it goes past good and back to bad again,” Enid
chimes. Other moments are quiet and priceless. Watch Enid’s face as she plays an old blues classic she’s
just discovered over and over again…it speaks volumes.
is an amazing cast, from the rightly recognized Steve Buscemi to the no-nonsense
approach of Scarlett Johansson. But
the movie belongs to Thora Birch first and foremost…she made Enid lovable,
despite all her willful shortcomings.
movie is actually based on a comic book, which I’ve never read, and the
screenplay was co-penned by the director Terry Zwigoff and the comic creator
Daniel Clowes. It’s one of the
year’s most insightful offerings, and if there’s any justice, their work
will be rewarded with an Oscar nomination.
bottom line is, we’ve all had our Enid phase at one point, even if it wasn’t
as strong as hers. The subtle need
to reject everything you think has rejected you?
I saw a lot of my old self in her…ironically, I saw a lot of my adult
self in Seymour, but that’s another matter.
Enid could be this generation’s Holden Caulfield.
is a terrific high definition transfer from start to finish…no complaints.
Despite being a more indie-styled film, the coloring is beautiful from
start to finish, with more than a few scenes demonstrating a strong palate of
tones perfectly rendered, with no bleeding or distortions.
Images are sharply produced all the way, with no softness and no grain,
and with no loss of detail from lighter to darker scenes.
A superb effort from Criterion!
5.1 mix is a fairly good one, though by the nature of the film, not overly
conducive to surround. Much of the
movie is dialogue oriented, and the words come across cleanly and clearly.
A few musical moments are all the action the subwoofer gets, and only a
scene or two seem to really activate the rear stage in a discreet way.
Dynamic range is very good. All
in all, a pleasant listening experience.
The original "other studio" release on this film had no commentary track; thanfully, this one does, including Zwigoff, producer Lianne Halfon and screenwriter Daniel Clowes, which is a good listen. There are also new interviews with Thora Birch and Illeana Douglas, an excerpt from the film that provided the opening title sequence Bollywood musical number, plus some deleted scenes and a trailer.
Ghost World is just the cure for you if you’re sick of brainless teen comedies that run on hormones instead of real ideas and characters. A superb cast and excellent script make this one of the year’s best films, and if you missed it the first time around, you owe it to yourself to catch it on this quality Blu-ray from Criterion.