Monday, January 29, 2018

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #184 - Ghost World (2001, dir. Terry Zwigoff, Written by Daniel Clowes & Terry Zwigoff)

Rebecca: This is so bad it’s almost good.
Enid: This is so bad it’s gone past good and back to bad again.

In the nineties Daniel Clowes had a run of his comic Eightball entitled “Ghost World” that, among others, featured the odd stories of recent high school grads Enid and Rebecca. Clowes’ series was a cult classic in the comic world and as the “Ghost World” narrative gained popularity, Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes turned the story into the crazily rad film that I have the pleasure to attempt to turn you onto for this post! I’ve always been a bit of a comic nerd with a penchant for the underground and alternative stories, so I fell in love with Clowes’ Eightball (at the same time as I found the Hernandez Brothers Love & Rockets series). With that in mind, I was extremely pleased when the film, in an abnormal turn of events, happened to live up to the insane awesomeness of the comic.

The story follows Enid (Thora Birch) as she and her best friend Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson), having just graduated high school, embark on the beginning of the rest of their lives. All seems well as they follow Satanists from their favorite haunt to the “like, Taj Mahal of fake 50’s diner’s,” mess with their ‘friend’ Josh at his convenience store job, and Enid dryly fumbles through her remedial art class, however life becomes much more complex as the both of them deal with the ennui of the real world in different ways.

While reading through the personal ads in the paper, they come across a “missed connection” (pre-Craig and his list) of a man who believed he had a connection with a woman who he had randomly helped. The two decide that it would be fun to mess with the guy, make a date with him and watch as he is “stood up.” Fast-forward; as Enid watches the man sit and sip his vanilla milk shake an interest is piqued within her. Having followed the man home they began stalking him, eventually discovering that the man, Seymour (Steve Buscemi), runs a makeshift record store out of his garage on Saturdays. Enid picks up a 33RPM compilation of old Blues 78’s and her interest begins to become an obsession (thanks to Skip James’ “Devil Got My Woman”). While Enid further falls down the rabbit hole of Seymour’s anti-glamorous life and escapes further into defensive sarcasm, Rebecca begins to embrace the real world working at a coffee shop and looking for an apartment. And from there, well, the story evolves.

Seymour: I can't relate to 99% of humanity.

One of the things that hits me most about Ghost World is the fact that every time I watch this film (or read the comics or graphic novel compilation) I see it from a different perspective. The root of the film is transition. Enid and the rest of the characters are all going through major changes and transitions in their lives and the ways that they deal with them are extremely relatable and human. All of the characters offer a different perspective on change and evolution of self, which make the film/comic endlessly fascinating.  The story/comic is gorgeously imbued with this relatability, and the film under less capable direction and with less committed performers could have easily fallen flat. Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, and Steve Buscemi prove to be such perfect live action representations of their much-beloved characters that it almost seems as if Clowes had written/drawn the characters for those particular people.

While I have certainly focused more upon what makes this a remarkable and important film, I can’t express enough how enjoyable and hilarious the movie truly is! The trials and tribulations of Enid’s life in transition, while at time heartwarming/breaking, are often hysterical and the sardonic sense of humor of the main character permeates the entirety of the film. Being a new addition to the Criterion Collection I can’t say enough about Ghost World and knowing that words won’t fully be able to describe the appeal of this eccentric gem, I will end this edition of “I’d Love To Turn You On,” so you can go and experience it for yourself!

-         Edward Hill

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