Ghost World (2001)

ghost world poster 2001 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great looking, great characters

Story doesn't have much structure which could put off some people

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Ghost World

Studio:   Advanced Medien

Genre(s):   Comic Book/Comedy/Drama

Release Date(s):   June 16, 2001 (Seattle International Film Festival)/July 20, 2001 (US)

MPAA Rating:   R

ghost world norman bench enid rebecca thora birch scarlett johansson charles c stevenson

How’s it going, Norman?

Enid (Thora Birch) and her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) have just graduated high school…or at least Rebecca did.  As the two plan to get an apartment together, Enid finds she must take a remedial art course taught by Roberta Allsworth (Illeana Douglas) and that her father (Bob Balaban) is seeing the woman (Teri Garr) who broke his heart years before.  Enid’s troubles are multiplied when she befriends Seymour (Steve Buscemi) who was the victim of one of Enid and Rebecca’s pranks.  Seymour seems like a lost cause, and Enid might become the queen of lost causes…or it could all fall apart.

Directed by Terry Zwigoff, Ghost World is a comedy-drama based on the comics of Daniel Clowes 1997 collection of Eightball stories.  The film was critically acclaimed and nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.  The Criterion Collection issued a remastered version of the film (Criterion #872).

ghost world enid seymour thora birch steve buscemi

Hold on, I’m going to turn your life into a trainwreck!

Ghost World falls into that “art movie” mode pretty easily.  It doesn’t have much of a story and the ending is interpretational.  That could either please or anger someone who watches it.  I like Ghost World and have watched it multiple times…but I can sympathize with those it frustrates.

The “story” with Ghost World is more a series of vignettes with “new” linking material.  The comic was generally strips and unconnected.  Here, Zwigoff tries to craft a story while maintaining this disconnected feel.  It works for me, but by creating a story, the movie could also lose some fans of the comic.

What makes the movie great is that it is filled by flawed characters…especially Enid.  Thora Birch is awkward (and also seemed awkward in her breakout American Beauty).  Enid constantly messes things up in her attempts to find herself and is kind of toxic.  Scarlett Johansson plays Enid’s friend who succumbs to the masses (but this also sadly means growing up).  Steve Buscemi is Enid’s “project” and essentially gets caught up in Enid’s game.  There is also a great supporting cast with Illeana Doulas, Bob Balaban, T.J. Thyne, and Brian George.

ghost world coons chicken illeana douglas

An actual defunct chain of fried chicken restaurants…

The movie captures the comic visually.  The movie is bright and garish but also gets the whole consumerism vs. individuality nature of the characters.  Enid loves some of the kitschiest things made for the masses, but they are kitsch from way before her age…making her an individual in a world of fast food and manufactured nostalgia (which is why she bonds with Seymour).  I really like the discussion of “is the past better” which falls in line kind of with films like Midnight in Paris.

Ghost World is an interesting title and not really explained in the movie.  I take it as kind of everyone has these little bubbles of influence, but they also retreat into these bubbles.  Enid keeps her bubble tight and her quest for hipness (even criticizing a guy drinking milk…which turns out to be a milkshake) keeps her isolated…I do however share her pain at working at a movie theater.  The only way for Enid to break out is for her is start anew…but it remains to be seen if a fresh start work because sometimes the world around is what you are.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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