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Thursday, September 15, 2016

Movie Review: Ghost World and Growing Up, Uncertainty and Purpose


Image result for ghost world poster

Ghost World (2001)

Starring: Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson
Written By: Daniel Clowes
Directed By: Terry Zwigoff
Release Date: September 21, 2001
Rating: C+

Summary: After graduating high school, two friends try to figure out what they're going to do with their lives.                                             

My Thoughts: "In a world where nothing is what it seems. In a time of uncertainty...."

 In this quote, we have described what this film is about: uncertainty.  Uncertainty about the future and what we're supposed to expect from it. What if it doesn't turn out how we want? What are we supposed to be doing with our lives? And how are we going to do it? We have a film about how nothing seems to be what they appear to be as people appear to have it together when they do not, people appear to be 100% set on what they want to do even though they are not and in these kinds of observations lie this uncertainty that consumes our two main characters as they live their existence out in this place called the Ghost World.When we meet our two main characters, Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) and Enid (Thora Birch), they've just graduated high school and don't have many plans except finding an apartment and living together. They're outcasts, but more importantly, they're smart and funny and they live in this "Ghost World", but they know this about themselves and more importantly, they accept it and act however they want; unapologetically so, mainly because they have one another and while the film doesn't expect you to like these girls, nor does it care if you do, I didn't care for them that much.  

These two title characters are best friends and Thora Birch returns as an off-beat misfit, as previously played in American Beauty, and Scarlett Johansson stars as her similarly angsty sidekick and it's not their performances that put me off as they're honest and again, quite funny, but something was missing. Something stopped me from connecting with them singularly, as they both seemed like people we needed to pity more than relate to. They're lost and we're watching them find their way, but are we hoping they do? Not really because again, for most of the movie, they don't even care if they find their way or not. They know they should and that's an issue right there and they eventually search for some direction each in their own way with Rebecca finding a job and Enid throwing herself at Seymour (Steve Buscemi), a man that, just like these girls, doesn't quite fit in with the world. However, neither of these things makes the girls happy and even more so, it causes them to break away from one another as they begin to see that they want two different things.

But what exactly are the goals for our protagonists? Besides not blending into normality, these characters merely live and nothing more. Like photography, when we put people into categories, we begin to realize their purpose, such as descriptive photos offering visual information about the world around us or theoretical photos offering explanation about photos. However, with Enid and Rebecca, we categorize them as outsiders and it's only then that we realize their existence is for no other reason than rejecting the ordinary, even though these two are far from it. And going forward with categories, again, like with categories of photography, they have details that place them in these categories such as famous face photography involving famous faces or wider world photography depicting distant, exotic worlds. Enid and Rebecca's cold, cynical natures are what make them outsider as it puts people off, myself included.

These two aren't like everyone else in their graduating class who have plans and dreams to grow up and go to college and get careers. These two aren't growing up and neither are doing anything of any merit, like going to college. What they're doing is merely living the only way they know how and for Rebecca that means working a dead-end job, having her own place and taking on this sense of adulthood regardless of the fact none of these things even make her happy. However, she does all of these things because she realizes it's a part of life. For Enid, that means continuing to wallow around the "Ghost World" doing whatever she pleases, but not confirming to the kind of normality that she's surrounded by. And it's when Rebecca, too, begins to conform to this sort of zombie-like normality that Enid abandons her. Enid doesn't want to give up herself, she wants to stay weird and unique in a place where everyone seems the same, but this sort of mentality is keeping her from growing up. It's keeping her from keeping a job and even more so, finding love with Seymour. However, she can't do this because it is another "adult-like", normal thing she can't experience simply because she refuses to lose her authenticity and doesn't want to conform to the same existence her friend and fallen prey to. However, what is she supposed to do then? Keep fighting that same fight, or conform? After the film poses this question upon her breaking off her sort-of relationship with Seymour, Enid falls into this depression; a depression caused by this uncertainty on what she is to do, which directly leads to the film's melancholy finale.

And it's here where I have major problems with the film. This film is sad and in a way where it need not be, even though we're following around these negative, cynical girls. It's bleak and dark and for me, it does this in a way that leaves me unsatisfied, questioning and frankly, sad even though throughout the course of the film, I desperately hoped that these girls would figure their lives out and to make a long story short, they don't. 


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