Comic Book Movies 101: Ghost World
Despite wanting to watch Ghost World for a while, I just couldn’t manage to put my hatred of Scarlet Johannson on the backburner long enough to do it. Then not long ago I was rooting through my best friend’s DVD collection for something new to watch and I came across it. She was surprised I’d never seen it as it was, in her words, “right up my street” so I succumbed. I’m glad I did as it’s a fantastic film that brings something new to the table on every viewing.
Ghost World is the chronicle of that small group of people who don’t, and probably never will, quite fit into the world. They’re on the fringe, just existing in their own parallel universe. Though it sounds depressing, this film is hardly a downer, it’s full of humour, satire and acute observations on life. The overall production is excellent (the brightness and colours in the photography, costumes and sets is stunning), plus it pulls off the impossible by successfully steering toward dead-on seriousness near the conclusion to drive its point across.
It begins at graduation with Enid (Thora Birch) and Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), two high school outcasts who see right through the facade of their juvenile peers and want nothing to do with it. For Rebecca this self-ostracising is a passing phase, a method of surviving high school trials and tribulations, but for Enid this is always going to be her way of life. There’s a brief emotional turning point for Enid when a cruel practical joke backfires and she becomes involved with the target, the nerdy and very sardonic Seymour (Steve Buscemi), who may just be the kindred spirit Enid was looking for.
Ghost World is described as so because it’s difficult to pinpoint the setting of the film. It could be any one of the suburban areas that have sprung up in the United States over the past couple of decades. There is a great deal of comfort and leisure, but at the same time there’s a lack of soul. It isn’t the big city, with its culture and activities, nor the small town, with its sense of tranquillity and community, but a mixture of the two which ends up being none of either. No one is truly happy, yet everyone plasters on a smile. And that’s what really bothers Enid. It is a world where sterile hip-hop music is used to celebrate high school graduation, authentic 50s diners are anything but, and a white ‘blues’ band sing about picking cotton all day long for the man. All contrived, all far removed from its source and all as real as a slushie from the Sidewinder food store.
One of the best things about this film is how open to interpretation it is. I mean, does Enid commit suicide in the end or does she just disappear from the world she doesn’t fit in to? It is possible to talk about this film for hours and I get more out it with every viewing.
The fact that this premise, these ideas and the interesting characters came from a comic book makes you realise this medium doesn’t just hold the worlds of superheroes and mutants but clever, witty and original stories that can capture the minds of even the most cynical viewer.