Ghost World hits with a rare ferocity; it is so funny yet so sad that you feel guilty about your laughter. I spent the last forty-five minutes turning to my friend and saying, “that poor girl”. He would look at me and we would laugh, but it was guilty laughter. Without the usual Hollywood devices of booze, drugs, sex and violence, we watch a person’s entire life get sucked down a toilet. This is a startlingly great rental.

First of all, Thora Birch as Enid and Scarlett Johansson as Rebecca are remarkable. This movie was made in 2001. Birch was born in 1982, and Johansson in 1984. So, the depth and realism they bring to their characters is excellent, if not a little too real. Let me put it this way, I rented this movie with a friend who is an award winning pornographer, and even though combined Birch and Johansson are 33% breast, Birch being closer to 45% on her own, we watched Ghost World with interest. There was one scene where neither of them said anything and my friend commented that they would, “make a nice little sandwich.” He is a pederast and has no problem vocalizing these kind of thoughts. I had to keep mine bottled up inside.

Enid and Rebecca are misfits freshly released from high school. Kudos to the writer for having the girls spin and flip off the high school right when they graduate. It is a sentiment that all of us strongly relate to, but that we were not mature or smart enough to pull off. The two love nothing more than torturing boys with their budding sexuality and commenting on how fake and plastic the world is. Typical enough fair, but pulled off with a refreshing and focused sense of humor. Steve Buscemi enters the film as Seymour; Enid’s unlikely but obvious love interest. Seymour is a true dork, but instead of attending Star Trek conventions he obsesses over old ragtime 78s. Collectors are generally pretty creepy, but Buscemi brings an amount of affection to the role that makes him lovable. I kept yelling at my friend because Seymour and Enid weren’t fucking. When they finally did, I cheered.

Enid tries desperately to hold onto her integrity and not assimilate into the post high school “ghost world” she dreads so much. She can’t hold down a job because of her honesty, and can’t understand why everyone else can. Very Holden Caulfield. In doing so she alienates everyone around her including her best friend. Rebecca’s whole life seems to be centered on getting her own apartment and she is counting on Enid to get work and help her do this. She has no patience when Enid begins fucking up. Enid has every opportunity to do right and find a little piece of happiness but stubbornly, almost admirably, doesn’t. In the end, you realize that you have just watched a tragedy spruced up to feel like a comedy. I highly recommend this rental.

Worth the price of the rental alone, is Doug, played by David Sheridan. Doug not only has a mullet and a moustache and a wife-beater tan line, but he has killer Vanilla Ice stripes shaved in the sides of his head. The only thing they fucked up on was making Doug drive a Honda instead of an El Camino. Also, on the DVD you get two alternate takes of the scene where Doug and the Quickie Mart owner do battle with nunchucks and a mop.

Every character is great. There is nothing more fun than watching sub-cultures attack each other, and Ghost World is chock full of that. A particularly awesome scene is when the girls enter a ‘Zine shop and yell at the clerks who are debating how to get flesh off a corpse. Illeana Douglas, one of my faves, is brutally effective as a high school art teacher. David Cross is under utilized but great as a “cool” loser who hits on Rebecca. Even Bob Balaban turns an otherwise throw away role as Enid’s mousy, foppish Jewish father into something memorable.

Ruthless Ratings

  • Film, Overall: 9
  • Extras :3, but the Doug scenes are bitchin’
  • Story: 9
  • Acting: 9
  • Direction: 9

Ruthless Reviews Special Ratings:

  • Number of Cigarettes Smoked: 7
  • Number of Beers Drank: 0, but I did drink a strawberry Crush
  • Number of Times Movie was Paused to do Something Else: 0
  • Number of Times you Wished you Were Watching a Carrot Top Movie: 0
  • Number of Times you Wished you Were Watching Chinatown: 0
  • Number of Times you Thought you Were Watching a Tarantino Picture: 0
  • Number of Times you Found yourself Enjoying the Movie: The whole time
  • Number of Times you Wished you Would have Taken that Screenwriting Class: 2, but out of jealously only.
  • Number of Times the Oppressive Soundtrack Made you Reach for your Knife: 1
  • Number of Times you Imagined the Director Snickering to Themselves: Often, but it was good snickering.
About Jonny Lieberman

Jonny was the site’s co-founder and helped carry the place in the early years. There was a falling out with Erich and he left the site for good, but a lot of his reviews live on. He has moved on to a successful career writing about cars. Look him up.