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  Ghost World  
  Terry Zwigoff  
  Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, and Teri Garr  
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It's pretty easy to fall into the trap of associating a particular genre or medium with a specific set of qualities. When I was first told that Ghost World was based on a comic book by Daniel Clowes, I immediately thought "oh, not another Batman, Superman, or Spawn". The urge to categorize something simply because it fits a particular pre-defined mold in your mind can lead to adverse reactions, twitching facial expressions, and an urge to say "No, I don't want to see that superhero shit!"

I almost fell into the same trap. But there are no superheros in Ghost World. In fact, this movie is so far from the male masochistic unrealistic Batman special effects laden hollywood tripe that I was pleasantly surprised.

The film starts off at a slow pace, but each scene is filled with smart humor and the character's personalities materialize before you as people you've known throughout high school. Or maybe, this WAS you in high school. No, don't fear. I'm not talking about American Pie characters.. I'm talking real characters that you can relate to.

The plot doesn't really kick in until a third into the movie, and even then it isn't a plot driven movie. Basically this is a story about two girls who graduate from high school and they're struggling to find footing in the real world. They're best friends, but once they leave the comforts of high school, they start drifting away. It's basically a coming of age movie about living in the world today, where everything is so depersonalized and corporate and everybody looks the same. Sounds cliche? I know it does, but the movie does a perfect job of avoiding that by making its point real and honest.

I found many things intriguing about this film. I loved seeing the world through the skeptical, yet caring, eyes of Enid (Thora Birch), and to a lesser degree, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson). I loved seeing their relationship develop after high school... I feel I could really relate to what Enid has gone through. She feels she needs to hold on to this idealism. She wanders lost in the "real world" trying to find something or someone genuine, something that is totally uncool in this hip world. I liked how the stereotypical characters in this movie were developed so they surpassed those stereotypes. I loved the acting. Thora Birch was wonderful, very convincing... and Steve Buscemi was EXCELLENT. and last of all, I loved the ending (although many will probably disagree with me). It is the perfect ending for a movie that raises so many questions.

Also, the direction is perfect. The attention to detail, and to the composition of the screen is something that would make me watch this film again and again. The colors are vibrant and happy. The familiar-ness of the corporate logos that are plastered all across this imaginary town makes for an interesting colorful-yet-bleak edge that the characters seem trapped in...

On the negative side, the first part of the movie did drag along a bit and employed a few too many cheap laughs. Some characters were un-necessary (although they were quite funny). And some of the beginning parts did read like small episodes in a comic book instead of a movie. But once the movie built enough steam, it lost that episodic quality.

Another small minor gripe I had was... well it's not actually a gripe.. I guess I am just unsure about the casting of Thora Birch as this geeky weird girl who doesn't fit in, bla bla bla. I mean, in American Beauty she was cast in a role with some of the same characteristics.. Both characters were rebellious, unhappy, and didn't fit in.

I have no problem with Thora Birch herself. The problem is that she is too beautiful, too ideal, too (physically) well developed, too unlikely to be the geeky girl you know who REALLY felt like an outsider. The problem I see isn't that the film isn't convincing, but that the audience WOULDN'T have been convinced if it were anybody unattractive. In a way, this makes me even more sad about the real outsiders.

Sorry about the rant. Anyway, this movie is funny yet smart, depressing yet hopeful, cynical yet caring. Don't miss this movie, it's a gem, and the best movie I've seen thus far this year.

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