It’s female comedy week here at DGO, and this is a very funny film about funny women (well, one funny woman in particular). “Ghost World” is based on an underground comic book of the same name by Daniel Clowes, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Terry Zwigoff. Thora Birch (“American Beauty”) stars as Enid and Scarlett Johansson plays her best friend Rebecca; these two are sarcastic, mopey and more pissed off than Holden Caulfield. They detest all the phonies in their town and high school, though luckily they’ve just graduated – albeit without any college or otherwise impending plans.
With cropped back hair and ironic punk outfits, Enid speaks for all misfits. She might not be a technical stoner, but she’s listless and jobless; hanging out at a faux-’50s diner, listening to records, watching old Bollywood films and cartooning in her spare time. She’s a fervid anti-conformist, while Rebecca is a simpleton who suspects life might be easier if she tried go with the flow. Enid’s interests are too specific, retro and unique. Guys her own age don’t like her (they like Rebecca – I mean, it’s Scarlett Johansson).
One day, Enid and Rebecca decide to play a prank, the sort that seems flawlessly clever when you’re stoned but kind of mean once you’ve sobered up. After perusing the personal ad section in a local paper, they contact a guy searching for a blonde stranger he met at the airport (“Am I crazy, or did we have a moment?”) They string him along, pretending to be the blonde he seeks. Rebecca is unaffected, content to mock and sully the life of an innocent bystander; but Enid ends up liking Seymour (Steve Buscemi), who is middle-aged, kindly and collects old records. His interests are as weird as hers. The girls grow apart while Enid and Seymour grow closer.
“Ghost World” holds a lesson about loneliness, and the kind of people who revel in it. If you hate the whole world, what’s the point of living? To girls like Enid and Rebecca, life feels inhospitable. Their casual cruelty to Seymour (and most others who cross their paths) doesn’t make them feel good. Enid comes to realize that relating to someone is actually a lot more interesting.
— Anya Jaremko-Greenwold