Ghost World Review
"Ghost World", United Artists, 2001
Terry Zwigoff's 2001 cult classic is about as 2000s as it gets, but not really. The chunky-booted teenage angst it presents is an interesting departure from what you may be expecting from a coming-of-age comedy-drama starring a young Scarlett Johansen, for better or for worse. Sure, it's anti-story with a teen-comedy shell does occasionally succeed at striking a balance between its grounded absurdism and narrative tangents, but its dry sarcasm can only get it it so far.
I'll preface by saying that it does a good job at working the nostalgic angle that these dramas aim to capture and unravel, presenting an ensemble cast of flat-out weird characters and placing them in a time and a place which, in any other film, would attempt to draw out an innocent relatability. But no. It's screenplay is surprisingly weird and wacky, playing off against the flat backdrop of suburban America in purposefully jolty ways. It's this awkward balancing act that the film is carried by, and its something you'll either take to, grow to appreciate or turn your nose up at. I guess it's fitting for the equally awkward stage of life the story centres around following summer graduation; A story which is propelled by an even mix of quietly human and weirdly tense moments, forwarded by Thora Birch's 'Enid' - the likably douchey face of this perplexing film that the screenplay doesn't shy away from just showing. Whether the power of this fake-realness registers with audiences or not, this is where most of the humour comes from and, again, you'll either take to it, or you won't. Whilst this may appear to some as an interesting take on the familiar themes and motives of growing up, relationships and maturity, I find it difficult to find anything to latch onto outside of what I appreciate about it - the way in which the darts in and out of the ordinary, its hidden insecurity and the attraction towards the wonderfully weird is a sentiment I can get behind, but its lack of heart outside of the self-awareness its locked into makes it come across as nothing aside an unnecessary point begging to be proven.
Ultimately, whilst I can tip my hat off to conscious effort in the directing striking this oddly precise tone through its blotchy bluntness, it's lack of stylistic and/or tonal variation fails to showcase all of the wit that it tries to prove it has.