The two central characters are key to the film’s success with Thora Birch’s caustic yet sensitive Enid, proving a natural partner to Scarlett Johansson’s down to earth, but equally disillusioned Rebecca. The girls live in their own alternative reality, creating characters from the local oddballs they meet in suburbia, and both actresses perfectly capture the sense of naivety, mischief and disdain in their characters. Steve Buscemi is equally adept as the dorky Seymour, who the girls identify, stalk and ultimately befriend. He manages to be a desperate, middle-aged loner without ever becoming sleazy or lecherous, which takes some doing as the plot unfolds. The film is fleshed out with a range of colourful and interesting oddball cameos drawn from Clowes’ own experience in California, with the Devil worshippers and the guy with the nunchucks particularly enjoyable.
The whole thing ultimately goes somewhere, but on the way tackles loneliness, age gap relationships, institutional racism and corporate exploitation. It somewhat feels like you’re on a knife edge and never sure where the film is leading, but that only makes the voyage so much more enjoyable. For a comic book conversion, it’s up there with Watchmen and Persepolis and never feels contrived or dumbed down from the original. Perhaps the fact that Clowes wrote the screenplay kept his vision intact.
Ghost World was a real surprise in it’s watchability, universal appeal, quality acting and the sense of warmth that we feel for all the characters. I’m possibly the last person in the world to see it, but if you haven’t already I suggest you watch it, sharpish.
If you like this you could also try:
Juno, Lars and the Real Girl, Garden State.