14 July 2002 | jamesdeanstolemyturkey
it seems, from other reviews on this page, this is a widely misunderstood film
A significant number of reviews I have read regarding Ghost World complain about "nothing" happening. This is simply untrue. Having read the book by Daniel Clowes and being sceptical and admiring of it in roughly equal measure, I was very pleased to see the film far surpassed the book in excellence. Another book that can be likened to Ghost World is The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, and even The Graduate shares themes with Ghost World. The narrative revolves in all three around characters who have reached a juncture in their life where the road splits many different ways, causing confusion.
The wonderful thing about Ghost World, however, is that Enid's reluctance to grow old is accentuated by the other characters ensuring their lives advance. Even Seymour "grows up" when he finally meets his attractive blonde. Constant reminders of Enid's immaturity make this film. When the two visit Josh's apartment and he is not in, Enid scrawls an immature and explicit note to him and hangs it on the door knob. But we hear Becky ask "Are you really gonna leave that?" This is one of the first signs of a difference between Becky and Enid. More follow, particularly the job hunting fiasco, in which Becky quickly finds and keeps her bum counter job in a coffee house, where as Enid jumps from job to job, her immature cynicism ensuring job loss.
Plenty happens in this film. Not least the ending, which, contrary to something I have read, is not an ending that the director rashly consturcting to rescue a failing storyline. Thankfully, the ending from the book was retained for the film, and it proves to be similarly poignant on screen. This is not a bus to nowhere, it is a bus out of nowhere. Enid finally finds a direction in her life - even if the direction is wide and undefined.
My only criticisms of Ghost World is that 1) the directing was tepid, showing little flare whatsoever, which detracts from the film and 2) Enid's university application in the book was not kept in the film. This was a particularly pivotal point in the book I felt, and it was unfortunate it was not kept in the film.
However, the acting is enjoyable - Buscemi is wonderful as the lugubrious Seymour and Birch is commendable as Enid. The comedy is a plus point in the film, however, I object to it being defined as a comedy, as the book was not and people may have seen this film expecting incisive comedy when the real story is far far more subtle than the frank comedy.
Definitely see this film. The desperate nature of the two protagonists is quite heartbreaking, the comedy characters are suitably cliched to ensure lightweight laughs (such as the hilarious store manager), and the ending is very good.
I give this film eight out of ten.