A sea of freshly-scrubbed young people, dressed identically in crimson caps and gowns, they all stand in rapt attention for their high school graduation. That is, all except for two; best friends Enid and Rebecca who snicker to one another, as if sharing a joke on which no one else has been let in. Enid and Rebecca are played with deadpan brilliance by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson in director Terry Zwigoff’s beloved cult classic, “Ghost World” (2001) featured July and August (2022) on MGM HD.
“Ghost World” is about that moment, when on the precipice of adulthood, life’s possibilities and promises can feel as open as they do empty. Enid and Rebecca, each armed with a heightened sense of irony and over-tuned hypocrisy detectors, wield their stiletto-sharp wit indiscriminately at any target that attracts their scorn. Faced with the daunting task of trying to figure out their place in the world, they spend their aimless days like a pair of private detectives investigating the uncharted world of grown-ups: they follow strange couples convinced they are secret Satanists; explore a mini mall diners dedicated to a corporate version of the American past; and search the classifieds for clues about human interactions. It’s when they meddle in the life of a stranger named Seymour (Steve Buscemi) their inseparable bond begin to crack.
In Seymour, Enid finds a kindred spirit; a malcontent with a love of obscurities and difficulty relating to others and she makes fixing his life her special project. The problem is that Enid has little idea about how to fix her own life. Capable as she is of spotting phoniness in the world with clarity, Enid is blind to how much she is the creator of her own obstacles. As the summer wears on, Rebecca gets a job and searches for an apartment for the two of them, making good on the plan they made when they were younger. But Enid is stuck and the two drift apart. After being hassled at work, Rebecca remarks, “You get totally sick of all the creeps and losers and weirdos,” to which Enid responds, “But those are our people.”
At its core, “Ghost World,” based on Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel of the same name, is a story about the loneliness of being a non-conformist in a world that demands conformity. Director, Zwigoff never judges his characters, he shows them making decisions harmful to themselves and others without sacrificing our empathy for them, from the film’s start all the way to ambiguous (and hotly debated) ending. Thora Birch’s Enid, with her sharp tongue and black-rimmed glasses has become a cinematic icon. Scarlett Johansson, only 15 when the movie was made, demonstrates the talent and professionalism that would make her a star. And Steve Buscemi, as always, plays humor and pathos with ease.
Hop on the bus to “Ghost World,” July and August (2022) on MGM HD.