Ghost World (2001) Directed by Terry Zwigoff.

Last weeks news of famous comics scribe Frank Miller, spewing right-wing dogma against the Occupy movement wasn't so surprising. His seminal and groundbreaking The Dark Knight, Daredevil and Sin City graphic novels re-imagined noir for a new generation with some added, subtly fascist undertones. Unfortunately, recent works have shown a drop in standards, followed by a drop in popularity. Controversial seems a surefire way to get attention, and maybe Miller can try to hide the fact that he had anything to do with directing The Spirit by spouting off some outrageous comments. It's fair to say that Miller is responsible (along with  a handful of other writers) for breathing life back into some legendary superhero franchises some 20 odd years ago with the graphic novels boom. Around this time another kind of writer emerged within the comics culture. Daniel Clowes, creator of Ghost World, ushered in a more literary approach to comics. As opposed to dealing with the superhero variety, Clowes creates worlds that are slightly twisted and surreal. Grotesques, 1960's pop-culture and the suburban slacker malaise feature in Clowes distinctive visions.

Zwigoff, working from a Clowes script, captures the essence of the comics whilst fashioning some great performances along the way. Not only this, Ghost World works as a slightly surreal love story. Thora Birch (who I'd completely forgotten about after American Beauty) and Scarlett Johansson star as the two high school outsiders (Enid and Rebecca) who decide to move in together after graduating. In many ways, Ghost World does work as a rites of passage movie between two close friends as they make their way into the real world. But that does make the picture sound too simplistic, when what's on offer is never obvious.

Steve Buscemi playing the loser-in-love Seymour who is the subject of a practical joke from Enid and Rebecca ignites Ghost World. The endless walking the streets and checking the freaks turns (at least for Enid) into forbidden love. After the practical joke, Enid falls for Seymour, probably because there's nothing better to do. Twigoff (well know for some ace documentaries such as Crumb) strikes the right chord with Ghost World. Not only does he make you laugh, but he creates something original with the film, without cheapening Clowes initial inception. Birch is really good here (although the yet-to-be-star Johansson will probably be the reason why people find this now). Ghost World is for once a great graphic novel adaptation.

I watched  Ghost World with curiosity and dread. I wished the two young women would not be too hurt by what life had in store for them. At the same time, I was tickled by their daring and a little bit over-the-top manners, their sense of superiority in relation to their peers and their parents, their outfits full of expression and their growing difference in how they experienced life as well as what they expected from it.

I have been one of those girls. Maybe not just Enid or Rebecca, but a mixture of both. I have also been one half of a such close union of two girlfriends. Watching Ghost World reminded me of a time that was simultaneously very uncomfortable and very potent with a sense of becoming. Life was pure potential, all doors seemed open and I had complete trust in the world, even if I could make sarcastic remarks on its inevitable doom. This time was spent with great girlfriends, talking big dreams, planning to live together, borrowing each other's clothes and talking about men, the future, sex, the futility of education and a lot of important matters that completely escape my mind now.

Ghost World is not a very happy and funny movie. Yet, it is a kind of comedy and though it’s pretty realistic, there is something fairytale like in the movie. The film has a touching and serious side to it. Thankfully, it treats the two young women with respect instead of saying ’look at them they are freaks’. I’m amazed I haven’t seen this before. I would recommend this to a teenager, although am not sure how I would have responded to it at the ripe age of 16 or 17. 


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