Ghost World

Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Thora Birch, Steve Buscemi, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas, Bob Balaban, Stacey Travis, Teri Garr.
MPAA Rating: R for strong language and some sexual content.

Review by Matt Heffernan <>
October 14, 2001

After two highly acclaimed feature documentaries, Terry Zwigoff has finally made a dramatic feature. His previous documentary subjects were old-fashioned blues music and comic books, providing an excellent platform from which to make Ghost World.

Thora Birch stars as Enid, a girl who thought she was going to graduate from high school until she opens her diploma, which instead contains a notice to attend an art class during summer school. This forces her to delay her plans of getting an apartment with her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), and instead continues living with her father (Bob Balaban).

As a joke, Enid and Rebecca decide to answer a pathetic-sounding personal ad in the paper. They call up Seymour (Steve Buscemi) and arrange a date at a diner, only to watch him get stood up from afar. Intrigued with this odd character, they follow him home. When Enid discovers that Seymour collects and sells rare blues records, she starts a legitimate friendship with him.

This film is actually based on a long comic book (or "graphic novel") by Daniel Clowes, who co-wrote the screenplay with Zwigoff. Enid is also a budding cartoonist, practicing a style that her art teacher (Illeana Douglas) does not appreciate. But the music and artwork are only a backdrop to present the relationships that Enid has with Seymour, Rebecca, her father, and Josh (Brad Renfro), a boy she has a crush on.

In this, Ghost World gives Birch a welcome showcase for her talents -- the follow-up she needed to American Beauty instead of the time she wasted with Dungeons & Dragons. It's also another great showcase for Buscemi, who shows that the can give a truly sensitive performance, instead of his usual neurotic madman persona.

But Zwigoff is the true victor here. His filmmaking skills translate beautifully to drama -- as opposed to documentary, since this film is also quite funny. I just hope that as he continues with his career, he finds time to balance the likes of Ghost World with those of Crumb, his brilliant second documentary on cartoonist R. Crumb. For despite the success of "reality" television, film documentaries will never be big moneymakers.

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Ghost World (2001)

Here's some merchandise for sale at
Ghost World, a graphic novel by Daniel Clowes -- Paperback
Ghost World, a screenplay by Daniel Clowes and Terry Zwigoff -- Paperback
Ghost World: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 2001 Matt Heffernan