Movie Reviews
11:07 am
Thu December 6, 2001

Ghost World

"After five minutes of this movie, you're going to wish you had 10 beers." These bursts of wisdom are indicative of an odd girl who will have to find out how to maneuver in a much less honest world.

I was wrong again: after thinking I had seen some good teen coming of age this summer in "Nico and Dani," "crazy/beautiful," and "An American Rhapsody," along comes a film to make me forget them all. "Ghost World" stars Thora Birch ("American Beauty") as a retro ?70's punk dresser who, like Benjamin in "The Graduate," has yet to figure out what she's going to do after graduation.

Her friend, played by "An American Rhapsody" Scarlett Johansson, loves Birch but refuses to stay outside the mainstream. One of the interesting tensions is that you can't be sure Birch's rebellion is wrong; in fact, her attraction to the older, eccentric Steve Buscemi has the maturity and insight lacking in the film's adults. This is Buscemi's lifetime achievement role -? a baggy pants, dorky collector of old '78 RPM's (like director Terry Zwigof), who connects with this 18 year-old, as she says, because "he's the exact opposite of everything I completely hate."

Birch whispers at graduation about a disabled fellow student giving the valedictory, saying, "I liked her so much better when she was an alcoholic and drug addict. She gets in one stupid car crash and suddenly she's Little Miss Perfect."

Even better is her comment to a movie theatre patron on the day she's hired and fired: "After five minutes of this movie, you're going to wish you had 10 beers." These bursts of wisdom are indicative of an odd girl who will have to find out how to maneuver in a much less honest world.

Based on the comic book series by Daniel Clowes and directed by Terry Zwigof, who gave us the brilliant documentary "Crumb" -? why should we be surprised that "Ghost World" also reminds us of "Welcome to the Dollhouse," "Heathers," and "Rushmore" at the same time. Nor should we be surprised that the ending has "The Graduate"?s brilliant ambiguity.

We just don?t know what will happen to Birch; we do know it won?t be dull.