I have a confession to make. I hated “Ghost World” when I first saw it, which was not too long after it came to DVD in 2001/2002.
At the time, I fully expected to like the movie; a tale of about high school’s outcasts post-graduation has ME written all over it. And seriously, what’s not to like here? It’s both funny and sad in real-life terms, and the acting, directing, writing are all top notch.
But people don’t watch movies as blank slates: if we don’t like a particular actor, we’re less susceptible to the character’s charms. If we don’t like a director, all the flaws in the filmmaking come shining through. And if we see a movie at the wrong point in time, we just don’t get it.
This has happened to me before: I saw “Schindler’s List” in the theater when I was 12 and spent three hours of my young life bored out of my mind. Granted, I’ve since learned from that cinematic mistake, but it was a film far too adult for my kiddie mind to appreciate.
And with “Ghost World,” it was just the opposite; I was so in-sync with the characters that I hated them and their movie.
Hating the characters isn’t too much of stretch; Enid’s (Thora Birch) misanthropy makes her incredibly unlikeable and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) is an outcast who longs to be popular and “normal” (sacrilege!). They’re idea of a good time is mocking and pranking anybody who dares to embrace the world’s possibilities.
They’re need to humiliate introduces them to Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a man who takes out a personal ad that catches the girls’ eyes and seals their collective fates (not that the journey is entirely gloomy).
But you can’t hate them, especially Enid, a live-action Daria without Jane in her corner. She’s just lost in the post-high school experience, discovering that she and her best friend are growing up into different people, and those people probably aren’t meant to be best friends (an idea that severally hit home with me on my first look).
More than anything, “Ghost World” illuminates how important movies can be, that they’re not just images on a screen. Like books, or a particular song, they can show us who a glimpse of who we used to be and how much we’ve changed. And six years later, I’m happy to change my opinion of this haunting but totally real graphic novel come to life.
“Ghost World” (2001)
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Written by David Clowes and Terry Zwigoff
Starring: Thora Birch (Enid)
Scarlett Johansson (Rebecca)
Steve Buscemi (Seymour)