Main cast: Thora Birch (Enid), Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca), Steve Buscemi (Seymour), Brad Renfro (Josh), and Illeana Douglas (Roberta)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
Based on Daniel Clowes’s comic book, Ghost World is the movie to watch when one hasn’t outgrown the Daria phase of life. Mind-numbingly self-absorbed and pretentious, the kind of movie that automatically hires Steve Buscemi to give it some indie cred it wants desperately to have, this one is all about wallowing in self-pity and misguided misanthropy because cynicism is the new black.
Enid and Rebecca are two friends that are outcasts in school because they never fit in. After graduation, they are at a loss as to what they should do in real life. Instead of doing what these kids always do in an effort to prolong their teenaged years – taking drugs, taking part in strikes, and breaking into labs to free research animals – they wander around aimlessly with their whipped guy doormat/punching bag buddy Josh.
But eventually one realizes that with the looks of Scarlett Johansson, it is only a matter of time before Rebecca starts wearing a waitress outfit to accentuate her bosoms, driving me to wonder why this young lady is even hanging out with Enid instead of being a cheerleader. Anyway, as Rebecca gets a waitress job, as Josh becomes a mini mart cashier dude, Enid finds herself increasingly adrift from her friends and turning to Seymour, a much older and socially awkward man who introduces her to the joys of music from bygone days.
I am initially charmed by Ghost World: I do like Daria after all. But by the one hour mark, I become exasperated by this movie’s being content to let Enid wallow deeper and deeper into her cynicism. She changes from a witty and intelligent young woman tired of her life into a young woman more content to whine and complain than to actually take a chance to make changes in her life if she’s so unhappy with it. But the time the credits roll, I am far from amused by this movie’s formulaic and derivative attempt to be “cool”.
By allowing its main characters to remain in a dark funk for its entire duration while leaving the movie to end on an ambivalent note, Ghost World comes off more like the result of a filmmaker trying to impress people by pandering to cynicism rather than a movie in its genuine right. Steve Buscemi (or William H Macy, take your pick), pretty starlets hoping to make the world forget that they are beautiful by acting in movies seen only by twenty people in the world, a pretentiously cynical script – this one has all of these formulaic trademarks of a generic indie movie and more.