March 4, 2024 | Rome, Italy

Ghost World

By |2018-03-21T18:42:13+01:00November 11th, 2010|Reviews|


Date: 2001

Director: Terry Zwigoff

Starring: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Buscemi, Brad Renfro, Illeana Douglas


erry Zwigoff reprises his love of Delta blues music (he directed “Louie Bluie” in 1985) in this bittersweet adaptation of Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel. Enid (Thora Birch, of “American Beauty” fame) is an alternative-girl who resents expectations. She’s also a high school artist who just failed art. Now, she can’t graduate until she passes a remedial class for what she calls “fuck-ups and retards.” Meanwhile, partner in crime Rebecca (a bored Scarlett Johansson) is a little too excited about adulthood. Rebecca aspires to an apartment and a job while Enid prefers daydreaming to the sound of her blues and punk records.

A cruel prank involving a personal ad leads Enid to Seymour (Steve Buscemi). Seymour is a total square, a middle-aged man obsessed with the 1920s blues scene who wears a lumbar support that looks something like a lady’s girdle. Social outsiders worshipping long-gone and kitschy world, Enid and Seymour forge an immediate bond. But Enid panders to Seymour for another reason — she’s responsible for the prank. Guilty, she sets up shop to find him a girlfriend. But when he finally snags one, the bombshells start dropping.

Clowes’ graphic novel is more saturnine than the movie, but edgy dialogue keeps the on-screen comedy serious. Few movies boast as good a soundtrack: Mohammed Rafi’s Bollywood rock and roll bopper “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” opens the film on a high, while a forgotten blues ballad — Skip James’ terribly sad, “Devil Got My Woman” — dials it back down. This is a movie for freaks and outsiders, for people who can’t stand how shallow the world’s become, for those convinced they’ll never be understood.

About the Author:

Lauren Jurgensen graduated with a degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Mary Washington. When she wasn't studying the coming-of-age rituals of West Africans, she was writing daily for local papers in the Washington, D.C.-Metro area. A passion for spreading the word about world cinema eventually led her to become president of the campus film club. There, she insisted on screening Italian crime dramas and the Rome-set films of director Federico Fellini. She lives in Virginia, where she writes haiku, bikes, and builds an endless personal library of books and vinyl records.