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Ghost World 2000
Directed by: Terry Zwigoff 
Written by: Daniel Clowes, Terry Zwigoff 
Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johannson, Steve Buscemi 
Language: English 
Look for it at the video store under: comedy
Watch it when you’re in the mood for something: artsy-fartsy, darkly comic, witty 
The critic says: ½/ 5 the rating system explained
Fun factor: ½/5 

Plot synopsis Sullen Enid has just graduated from high school. Well, sort of anyway: on graduation day, she finds a note attached to her diploma that informs her she has to go to summer school to re-take an art class she previously failed.  (The irony of it is that art is maybe the one thing that apathetic Enid has an obvious talent for, and actually gives a damn about, not that she’d ever admit the latter; she’s constantly toting around her battered sketch diary, documenting the little things she sees each day in clever cartoons.) It’s a drag, but then again, so is everything in Enid’s life: she wears cold, smart sarcasm like her favorite pair of beat-up black combat boots, a sort of long-held, defiant screw-you to the rest of the world, 99.99% of which she can’t and won’t identify with at all. Enid doesn’t have a clue about what she wants to do with her going-nowhere life, but she does know she doesn’t want to turn into any of the pathetic, phony losers she sees around her wherever she goes. Her best friend Rebecca’s one of the few people she can actually stand, her partner in mocking the many idiots with whom they’re unlucky enough to have to share the world. But when Rebecca begins to show signs of wanting to succumb to all the “normal” things people are supposed to do when they grow up – get a soul-sucking job, meet a cute hipster boy, find and decorate an apartment – Enid finds herself more alone than even she can really stand. Which is how she comes to find herself hanging out with Seymour – timid, middle-aged chicken chain assistant manager by day, obsessive collector of old 78s and other outdated paraphernalia by night – who starts out as the unknowing victim of one of Enid and Rebecca’s jokes, and turns into the unlikely object of Enid’s respect and affection.

Review Watching Terry Zwigoff’s darkly funny, quirky, lovely Ghost World, I know I should sympathize with Enid.  She’s a weird, smart teen who doesn’t fit in with the rest of her peers. She’s bright, funny, creative; she has a fabulous knack for carelessly tossed-off witticisms. It’s hard not to kind of admire a girl who decides one afternoon that she’s going to dress authentic 1977 punk, not to embody the punk mindset, but to poke fun at it. But for the most part, Enid just strikes me as pathetic, constantly hiding behind that cool armor of disdain and utter boredom, refusing to run the risk that she’ll look like a dork if she shows she actually cares about anything or anyone. She’s the sort of girl I probably would have thought was really cool when I was seventeen, the kind of girl I occasionally fancied myself to be, which, I guess, may be why she’s kind of painful for me to watch. The problem with Enid is that she’s so consumed with the idea that “not normal” defines her that she can’t let herself grow into anything more interesting than that. Thora Birch makes a wonderful Enid, but Enid, for the most part, doesn’t strike me as all that wonderful. It’s Steve Buscemi’s Seymour that I end up adoring: here’s a guy who looks funny, dresses funny, talks funny, feels funny – and not cool funny the way Enid styles herself either; he’s just plain odd. Seymour knows himself well enough to know that this is just who he is at heart, and doggedly pursues his weird passions despite the fact that he knows they’re totally lame. That Enid comes to admire Seymour is the thing that redeems her character in my eyes. Enid may be holier-than-thou pretentious right now, but by the end, I’m left feeling like there’s hope she’ll grow out of it, become comfortable enough with her own weirdness to quit dwelling on how different she is from everyone else, and get on with her life: to figure out that knowing who she doesn’t want to be isn’t nearly as satisfying as exploring who she really is. The funny thing is, I could easily imagine someone else watching Ghost World and thinking Enid’s the hero, and Seymour just a sad-sack loser (and given the conclusion, it’s even possible that that’s what the filmmakers felt). But in the end, the ambiguity is what I like so much about Ghost World. It lets the characters be who they are, rather than forcing them into who viewers might expect them to be. —reviewed by Yee-Fan Sun

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